Black Map creates music driven by the pulse of their early genesis as a trio who packed itself into a rehearsal room with pure intentions, a 12-pack and a boundary-smashing lack of prohibitions or rules. Their commitment is to each other, to what feels right; to meditation on big riffs that lurch and churn, dripping with atmosphere, powering bold and evocative statements.
Strip away pretension, forego the focus on shiny perfectionism, and the heavy rock roots of massive guitars, drums, bass and vocals evoke primal feelings and channel universal urges more complicated styles seldom touch.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but in the case of Black Map, the destination beckoning from within the soundscape of their songs is someplace much less literal, ‘though no less devilishly foreboding.
Black Map is the union of three established Northern California rock musicians, driven by a shared dedication to big riffs, big drums and powerful, straight-ahead, all enveloping rock n’ roll. Black Map consists of the versatile voice and walloping bass groove of Ben Flanagan (Trophy Fire), the wall-of-sound big riff histrionics of guitarist Mark Engles (dredg) and the unstoppable driving force and tasteful skill of drummer Chris Robyn (Far).
Their visceral approach turned the heads of the people who connect with the atmospheric hard rock of Deftones and Tool, the melancholy beauty of A Perfect Circle, the cerebral yet primal drive of Baroness, with a definitive knack for the melodic and delicate, from the Cardigans to Elbow, and even the theatrically dramatic, from Peter Gabriel era Genesis to Pink Floyd.
A few songs became a few shows and an EP which begat a debut album, …And We Explode (2014), which featured the buzzy single, “I’m Just the Driver.” The metaphorical “black map” of the band’s steadily building catalog and dedicated following led them to secure live performance spots alongside the mighty Chevelle, multi platinum rockers Bush, Circa Survive, and Highly Suspect in addition to multiple club shows as a headlining act.
Bloody Disgusting describes the band as “a unique mixture of A Perfect Circle, Helms Alee, and even dashes of Death Cab For Cutie.” Revolver breathlessly premiered their debut album, …And We Explode, in 2014. The New Fury complimented the record’s driving riffs and “absence of filler.”
Black Map returned to the studio with producer Aaron Hellam at Oakland’s Hellman Sound and created an ambitious but no less intense sophomore set, a boundary smashing, downtuned heavy rock slab called In Droves.
Songs like “Run Rabbit Run,” “Foxglove,” “No Color,” and “White Fence” are united in a lyrical exhortation toward staunch individuality in the face of soul-crushing conformity. These are songs that challenge listeners to focus on what makes them unique as people, to shake off the gloomy dystopian results of mass groupthink, to actualize and harness one’s own humanity.
As they continue forward, ever united in that original pureness of intentionality, Black Map covers bigger ground. Bursts of ambience and mellow contemplation compliment the broadly shaped melodic noise. Unafraid experimentation gives way to a strong dichotomy, to new elements, all within that original structure of Black Map’s monster riffing.
Sonic treasure hunters who study Black Map will find themselves transported to the spirit of the early 90s rock resurgence, when bands jettisoned the superficial fluff of the previous decade without wandering too far into dense pretension and delivered authentic and heavy music. Black Map combine flourishes of beauty alongside the bombast and a modern sensibility that nevertheless will not sacrifice its raw realness.