Black Stone Cherry – Magic Mountain (2014)

Posted: May 3, 2014 in Music

Magic MountainIt’s been a fast and furious 8 years for Kentucky rockers Black Stone Cherry, What started as simply teenage jam sessions between singer Chris Robertson and John Fred Young (son of The Kentucky Headhunter’s guitarist Richard Young), and quickly included classmates Ben Wells and Jon Lawhon, turned in to one of the greatest success stories of the twenty-first century.

And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Southern rock had remained a constant on rock radio thanks to staples as ZZ Topp and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and saw a bit of a rejuvenation on the 2000s thanks to acts such as Nickelback and Alter Bridge – but if the torch was going to be passed, it needed to belong to a band that was whiskey-soaked and deef-fried southern, and that’s exactly what Black Stone Cherry is.

In fact, it is this author’s opinion that the band has, through it’s three previous album releases, set the standard for the “new” southern rock sound and style: a style that pays deep homage to the predecessors, but quietly and almost inconspicuously takes the genre to new heights.

There isn’t a whole lot of anything new going on with the band with their latest release Magic Mountain (May 6th), but the band continues to move forward with their music, guns ablaze and rattlesnakes hissing. If there is anything different here, it is the fact that there is a little more “heaviness” to the album – and while not to be considered a heavy metal album, there is definitely enough here to get the attention of rock and metal fans alike. Part of that may be due to the band recently signing with Roadrunner Records, one of the most well-known metal labels in the history of music. When you walk the halls of a place that has released records from artists such as Biohazard, Type O Negative, King Diamond and Megadeth, I would expect a little bit of that to seep in to your blood, regardless of what style you play.

Whatever the case, Magic Mountain is thirteen songs of pretty much exactly what you wanted to listen to from a band that sounds great both driving down the road or lighting up the BBQ. There are messages, if you care to find them, but this album is best played one way and one way only – loud.

Some of the standout tracks for me were the opener “Holding On and Letting Go”, which opens with fuzzy muted guitar riffs, then cleans itself up nicely along the way. Halfway through, however, the band totally shifts gears into a tasty, nasty Black Sabbath-y riff of metal greatness before finishing up with their trademark choruses and soaring guitars.

black-stone-cherry

Already known as a bit of a “party band”, Black Stone Cherry make no secret about their favorite pastime – smoking pot. Two tracks, “Peace Pipe” and “Me and Mary Jane” are bound to be hesher anthems in the very near future, and while I’m not one for the “kind”, these tracks almost make a guy reconsider his recreational time.

The band has made a grand career of the “southern power ballad”, and you get a few along the way here. “Runaway”, “Sometimes” and “Remember Me” flirt a little to close to Creed territory for me, but they do give the record some depth of styles and the opportunity to catch ones breath along the way.

The title track “Magic Mountain” is a great arena rocker, “Never Surrender” features breakneck guitar riffs (as well as Robertson trying on a few metal screams for size), and “Blow My Mind” offers up some of the deepest blues vibes the band has ever recorded. The different styles from track to track really kept me listening, wondering what influence would pop its head out next, and when done right, makes an album great.

If there’s a misstep here, it is with the song that will probably be the most popular on the album. “Dance Girl” takes the listener on a guitar-and-bass-heavy ride through the world of strip clubs – but unfortunately, it’s almost exactly like “Let Me See You Shake” off their last record, which wasn’t a great track either. I guess if I’m hitting the strip club, I’d much rather hear Black Stone Cherry than, say, George Michael, so maybe they knew what they were doing all along.

All in all, though, Black Stone Cherry are perfecting the art of showing up, rocking your ass off, and leaving you to party – and that’s always been what southern rock has been to me. While Magic Mountain may not be their best record (which for me was their first) the band at least realizes that fans want a lot more of the same, and that’s exactly what they deliver.

This record is destined for commercial success, huge radio play, and will take them to even greater heights. Normally, that would bother me and turn me off of an album, but in this instance, I think it may be its greatest strength. Rock and mainstream radio needs a kick in the balls, and Black Stone Cherry have definitely strapped on their boots.

8.5/10

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