When I first turned on Black Map I was worried that I’d stumbled upon another Chevelle wannabe. I’ve come across this at least once with a band I’ll politely keep nameless and wasn’t looking forward to doing it again. Luckily, as is usually the case, my first impression was far different than my lasting impression. Fortunately Black Map aren’t that easy to simply categorize, but I’ll get on that later.
It’s the first song on their …And We Explode album that gave me the strong feeling that Black Map was another Chevelle knockoff. Code has that slow and rather whiny sounding singing that Chevelle has made a career out of. The best part of the song is the chorus, which is still Chevelle-like but good nonetheless. Things turn around with the next track Chinaski. The music is a little faster and more importantly the singing of Ben Flanagan is different, giving more intensity and effort, which completely turned my impression around.
I really don’t know if I could categorize Black Map as metal. Chinaski has its definite metal moments, but then following track I’m Just The Driver takes on an alternative attitude, but I’m not entirely comfortable calling it alternative metal. And then you have a song like Gold and Gemini, which are two of the fastest paced songs on …And We Explode showing some punk influence as well as showing Black Map’s interest in making this album far from being one dimensional.
The title track And We Explode pt. 1 doesn’t lose any volume and adds in some unique writing abilities by the band, with comfortable transitions made between the verses, pre-chorus and chorus. Then there is the explosion of emotions that is Eyes On The Prize which I believe to be the most intense song on …And We Explode, starting off slow only to become a powerhouse of sound while Ben Flanagan sings his heart out.
But again, I wouldn’t say those songs have any metal traits. Melee definitely does, mostly thanks to Chris Robyn’s fast drumming. I think I accidentally associate “alternative” with slow and sludgy, at least alternative metal, but Melee is a good example of how I’m wrong with that. Head For The Hills has its subtle differences from the rest of the album. It has arguably the most memorable guitar riffs and vocal melodies that I love as well as slightly odd time signatures in its composition which always succeeds in impressing me.
Stranger and Ropes don’t necessarily stick out from the rest album the way I’m sure Black Map hoped. I mean, they don’t sound like filler songs, not at all. Stranger is another intense alternative metal track that doesn’t let up and has some of the most intense vocals on the album, I mean I don’t mind that the verses are entirely sung on the same note because it’s delivered so damn well. Ropes has the fast pace similar to that of Gold and Gemini, but fails to hook listeners at any real point, and is really the only song that I feel lacks that hook.
The album ends with the second part to its title track, And We Explode pt. 2. There’s no immediate resemblance between the two parts, rather than their subject matter. Pt. 2 is much more slow, with keyboards to add to add the effect of making it seem like maybe this song could play in the aftermath of the end of it all. It ends …And We Explode on a unique and memorable note that marks a statement for the band that makes sure their listeners look forward to hearing what else Black Map may have to offer in the future.
I’ll just say alternative metal, but who cares. What matters is …And We Explode is really good. The best independent album I’ve reviewed in months. It isn’t one dimensional, it goes through many different sounds and styles that can keep anyone interested throughout. It definitely kept my attention. I don’t even have to get in to the technicalities of Black Map and album, because to put it simply, something I never do but should, the songs sound great.
“I’m Just The Driver” – Though just about all of the songs had something about them that hooked me in to liking them, there is one song that stood above the rest. Yes, this is my favourite song on the album, no I don’t at all always pick my favourite song to be the highlight, but this time, that just happens to be the case. It works though, because this song is as intense as any on the album, it’s as melodic as it has to be and it features the signature sounds that Black Map seems to be unafraid to make their own, mostly that of Mark Engles’s melodic guitar style.
8 (Out of 10)
|3.||I’m Just the Driver 03:14|
|5.||And We Explode pt. 1 03:21|
|6.||Eyes on the Prize 04:25|
|8.||Head for the Hills 03:59|
|12.||And We Explode pt. 2 05:10|