Helmed by Matt Hyde (Slayer, Deftones), Shifting Mirrors finds Franco-American trio Blaak Heat further advancing its Arabian fuzz agenda. Fusing sounds heard in surf music, Spaghetti Westerns, and on the back streets of the Far East, the group opens a big ol’ can o’ whoop ear with the first (though hardly the deepest) cut, “Anatolia”. It’s easily the heaviest, loudest, and bravest thing you’ve heard in a while. Cinematic in scope, flawless in execution, and capable of inspiring kids as young as thirteen to pick up the guitar, this piece is a new standard for a new generation.
That track offers up what this band is best at: well-paced instrumentals that don’t fix an answer too quickly in the mind. Similarly, all forty-one seconds of the endlessly mournful “Taqism” takes us on the kind of sweeping, romantic journey we wish would never end. Really, it comes as a segue between the Eastern inflections of the epic-ish “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim and the more martial “Ballad of Zeta Brown”. The former takes its name from a story penned by late Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. The music remains appropriately psychedelic in nature, bending the mind this way and that while Thomas Bellier’s vocals cloak the story in even more mystery than we might first expect. As for the latter, it’s unrelenting in its musicality and originality. The shifts in mood and purpose call to mind the way that early Metallica could carry a listener off to some unexpected dimension (and how willingly the listener would follow). By midway through the song we’re immersed in the Latin world of classic era Santana, tripping through the fields of aesthetic and spiritual beauty planted by John Coltrane. Then, we’re suddenly transported back to the more familiar dimensions we entered at the head of the tune. Do we know what happened? Do we care? Only in the sense that we have been lifted from the doldrums of our ordinary lives and been transported somewhere entirely other.
Blaak Heat has undeniable ties to metal, so it’s fitting that the group finds time to deliver unadulterated pieces in that style. “Black Hawk”, a six-minute showcase for Bellier’s considerable six-string prowess, immediately comes to mind. But it’s not just a showcase for what his right and left hands can do together, it’s also a showcase for his earth-scorching tone, which, once more, harkens back to the music of the early-mid ‘80s, the sounds that took hold before extreme music made waste to the earth. Elsewhere, “Tamazgha” serves as some kind of Native American homage (albeit one with Eurocentric guitar harmonies). “The Peace Within” offers more of the best Blaak Heat has to offer, while “Danse Nomade” gives us a glimpse of the trio at its loosest and most relaxed.
It’s hard to imagine a heavy band more deserving of our attention in 2016 than Blaak Heat. The attention to detail behind each composition, the far-reaching musical locales, and a tendency to leave no stone unturned help us celebrate that rebel spirit that makes heavy music exciting in the first place. Seek out Blaak Heat at once.
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