Black Map are a bass-heavy amalgamation out of northern California, featuring Ben Flanagan of Trophy Fire, guitarist Mark Engles (Dredg) and drummer Chris Robyn (Far). What started out as a bit of studio drinking, soon blossomed into something bigger and the well-drilled power trio are now on to their accomplished second album, ‘In Droves’.
It’s pretty no-nonsense stuff from the Californians, who rely on pulsating riffs and a bass-heavy groove, to drive their musings on modern life. However, the album is bookended by the moody meanderings of ‘Transit I’ and ‘Transit III’ with ‘Transit II’ tucked firmly in the middle; presumably they are there to add atmosphere, but individually are pretty disposable.
It’s ‘Run Rabbit Run’ that kicks things off properly and is the sound of a well-integrated band with highly competent songwriting, setting out their stall of hard-edged alternative rock in emphatic style. There’s plenty to get to grips with up to the ‘Transit II’ interlude too; there’s the Muse-like ‘Octavia’, a big slice of moody riffing that slow boils to a big chorus, while the frantic energy of ‘Ruin’ makes for a pulsating rocker. With the bass high in the mix the album has an interesting dynamic with tracks like ‘Foxglove’ and ‘Dead Ringer’ working particularly well.
It continues in a similar vein after the interlude, the head-spinning bass of ‘Indoor Kid’ and the abrasive riffing of ‘No Color’ providing the highlights. Although they experiment a little with the atmospheric dark pop of ‘White Fence’, things start to drag a little in the second half. ‘Just My Luck’ and ‘Cash for The Fears’, for instance, are both competent tunes, but add little to the album as a whole.
The overall impression of ‘In Droves’ is that of a well-oiled machine executing quality, if sonically similar tunes, which nails it frequently but never quite delivers the killer punch.
‘In Droves’ by Black Map is released on 10th March on Long Branch Records / SPV.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)