LIVE: Black Peaks @ Rock City (Basement), Nottingham

By Mark Johnson

It’s been almost a year since Black Peaks released ‘Statues’ and judging by the number of people crammed shoulder to shoulder inside the Basement of Nottingham’s Rock City, their phenomenal debut album did not go unnoticed. Those who own a copy have obviously heard Black Peaks, but until you see them live, you’ve never truly experienced Black Peaks.

The crunching riffs, pounding drum rhythms and staggering vocals sound huge enough on record, but that’s nothing compared to the titanic power that comes across in a live setting. The sheer variety of vocal styles that Will Gardner uses on ‘Statues’ is enough to make you dubious that they’ll ever be as good live, but thanks to his flawless technique he’s able to recreate everything on record and more. From guttural shouts to high-pitched wails and soaring melodies, everything is executed flawlessly, marking him out to be one of the best vocalists in alternative music today.

Despite the amount of intricate time signatures and tempo changes, instrumentally the band are perfectly tight and in the context of such complex compositions, their ability to not miss a single beat is mightily impressive. From the sprawling prog-rock masterpiece ‘Hang ‘Em High’ to the precision of ‘Saviour’ and the anthemic ‘Glass Built Castles’, the band prove they have the songwriting skills to match their perfect execution.

Glancing around the packed-out venue, it’s refreshing to see such variety in the audience. There’s the typical smattering of young teens, but also a fair representation of more senior ages as well, including a fairly strong contingent of over 50s. It’s a perfect display of Black Peaks’ appeal; the prog-rock elements, typically found in the bridge sections of their songs, has the older crowd grinning from ear to ear – no doubt triggering memories of King Crimson and Rush – before the heavy riffs crash back in, inciting the younger ones to get a circle pit moving. There’s a simplicity in the way Black Peaks present themselves: there are no gimmicks, no time wasted on perfecting an image and no egos to contend with. This kind of no-nonsense, raw honesty is something fans of all ages can get behind and it’s great to see the whole room giving the band the recognition they deserve.

No matter how many times you see Black Peaks, the performance level is consistently perfect and at this rate it surely won’t be long before they’re outgrowing venues of this size. Throughout 2016, when Black Peaks were doing the rounds as a support act, many bands suffered the problem of how to follow an act like theirs. For Black Peaks, they’ve invited the same problem on themselves: how do they follow a debut like ‘Statues’? If they can manage it, the next tour will be in considerably larger rooms and with the kind of quality that courses through the veins of this unit, the question is undoubtedly more “when” than “if”.