After a long drought of rock that made some fans pass the permanent wilting point, Nine Black Alps come back to the fold and release Sirens, an album that has the band play a little (almost half a iota) calmer than when they sprung out of their shell with Everything is.
So, the fourth album… what to do? In a way, they do what they do best (bub!) and deftly pull a few sweet grungy tunes for you. But like all Mexican highways, these are not smooth roads. Pot holes, devilish curves and the occasional blockade (the usual: army, bandits, trinket sellers*) are between you and your destination.
Starting with a trio of energetic, loud tracks that might be hardly considered grunge (‘Don’t forget to breathe’ is the closest), you know it’ll be a drive in the fast lane. The drumming and guitar work are exhilarating, with a tasty solo peeking by in ‘My one and only’.
And then a trifecta is achieved. ‘Phosphorescence’ finds Nine Black Alps in a slower, spacey groove. The grittier bits of rock have been sandblasted out and the very polished track is more like precious gem than a plank of wood that’s been tinkered with. A lovable change of pace. ‘Living in a dream’ is the complete opposite, cranking up the volume and copping a punk demeanour (minus someone screaming “oi oi oi”). One of the heaviest moments in Sirens, the one that will have people moshing and headbanging. The final change is a slow track, the confessional-like ‘Waiting room’, which boasts a playful ebow in the back resonating and wailing, giving it a chilling atmosphere.
We never return to such experimentation for the rest of Sirens and that’s a bit of a shame, as the tantalising changes of genre are a wonderful addition to Nine Black Alps sounds. Whatever is lacked in variety is more than made up in pure loud power. ‘Another world’, the closing track, is gorgeous. It is slower than the preceding barrage of rock, but the grit is right there. The instrumental half is pure space rock goodness.
The beauty of Nine Black Alps resides on their variety: you always think you’ve got them pegged down as raucous ne-er-do-wells that stomp on the distortion and fuzz pedals in unison, but then they pull the veil and punch you with introspection (‘Waiting room’), dream pop (‘Phosphorescence’) and some sweet ambient pieces (pretty much the last half of ‘Another world’). Always nice to find a grunge band that both steps on the pedal and pulls perfect bootlegger turns. The road’s free for Nine Black Alps.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López