I have written previously about my disdain for commercial modern rock radio. Bands like Nickelback and a plethora of Nickelback wannabes pollute its airwaves. One band that has been a bright patch of sky amongst all the clouds for me is Black Stone Cherry. Despite being lumped in with all these other bands, they always have had their own sound that separates them from their peers. Therefore, when I heard they had a new album, “Magic Mountain,” coming out May 6, 2014, I was of course interested in checking it out.
Black Stone Cherry has consistently put out good records since their debut back in 2006. Their brand of Kentucky fried southern hard rock has always had just the right balance of new school groove and old school twang to set them apart. “Magic Mountain” sees Black Stone Cherry sticking with this same formula. They build upon everything they have done thus far, while adding a few new ingredients to keep it interesting.
“Magic Mountain” has a little more oomph in it than the band’s last release, “Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea.” The first track, ‘Holding On…To Letting Go,’ opens with one of the rougher riffs the band has written in a while. The wah pedal lick starting ‘Bad Luck & Hard Love’ kicks in to a stomper where Chris Robertson can flex his pipes. ‘Fiesta Del Fuego’ is driven by a cool distorted bass line from Jon Lawhon, and feeds your need for more cowbell. ‘Remember Me’ begins with an odd guitar effect that seems to emulate ripples on calm water, and is interlaced throughout the thumping closer. The bands new level of heaviness comes across cleanly thanks to some quality production from Joe Barresi.
Of course, there are the obligatory radio ready ballads, ‘Runaway’ and ‘Sometimes.’ There is also a straight up country track with ‘Hollywood in Kentucky.’ However, what seems to be the underlying theme of the album is Black Stone Cherry’s fondness for marijuana. Almost half of the album’s 13 tracks reference it or are blatantly about it. Maybe they are trying to cultivate some new blend of radio friendly stoner metal and southern rock.
Regardless of the excessive ganja tunes, “Magic Mountain” is a solid album. I don’t think Black Stone Cherry are on their way to becoming the next High On Fire, but anything they can do to set them apart from the rest of the AOR pack, the better.