It was the summer of 1985. There was me, Kromlock the Warrior, my friend Dennis, better known as Garmo the Wizard, and Peter, a.k.a. Hendrix the half-even ranger. We were wandering the dark woods of Falcomar at the mercy of Doug Dexter, our dungeon master.
Doug Dexter was the best dungeon master I had ever known. It was easy enough to read aloud the buoyant prose that framed “The Temple of Elemental Evil” or “Against the Giants,” but Doug Dexter was downright theatrical. He had a million voices, a million accents and dialects from Halfling to Lizard Man. When we stayed up for 32 hours straight trying to defeat “The Tomb of Horrors,” Doug Dexter’s Acererak voice was absolutely horrific. “WHO DARES DISTURB THE SLEEP OF ACERERAK!?!” He would roar with a flashlight shining under his chin.
Doug Dexter had cassettes of classical and baroque music that he had cadged from the local public library. These tapes would play quietly on his Radio Shack tape player under the table while we wandered the dark woods or asked around a sleepy hamlet for information about a local guild of thieves hiding in the area. But whenever we entered a combat situation, Doug would slam the tape player on the table, hit play, and the distorted assault of King Crimson, Rush, Black Sabbath, or Gustav Holtz ‘The Planets’ would blare from that crappy tinny-sounding speaker.
Those marathon D&D sessions were my first exposure to King Crimson and their fantastic Red album. To this day, when I hear the title track, that initial blast of wooshing keyboards and harsh guitars, I reach for an imaginary d20 on my dashboard or my desk to roll for initiative. In later games, things like Slayer or Metallica became our “battle music,” but there was something about that proggy King Crimson or Rush vibe that made the game feel more epic.
Which brings me to Black Mountain and their epic album, In the Future. Replete with trippy album art and a grimoire full of hype, “In the Future” is the Canadian band’s follow-up to their self-titled 2005 debut. You can get it on two big greasy slabs of vinyl or one shiny CD, though a 2-CD bonus edition exists.
I had heard a lot of hype about this band. “They’re like Sabbath meets Floyd meets the Airplane, mannnn…” or my favorite description – “Imagine this, Al Cisneros and Hope Sandoval start a band with Nik Turner and Neil Young sings.” The allmusic entry for the album namechecks everyone from Sandy Denny to Hawkwind. All of these are fairly accurate, but they still don’t do the band justice. When a band wears their influences that prominently on their sleeve, sometimes it comes off too tongue-in-cheek or way too self-important. The debut album sounds like just another bullet in the Brian Jonestown Massacre/Warlocks/retro-psyche gun. It has yet to grow on me the way their massive follow up has, like so much psychedelic fungi.
While the dizzying dynamics of “In the Future” will inspire endless games of “___ meets ___ meets ____ meets” there is a deep musical and emotional core that begins with big stony sludge and gives way to bright acoustic guitars, mesmerizing voices, thundering drums and warm, misty bass. Its an album of psychedelic dreamspace that’s as rich and invigorating driving in the sunshine as it is on headphones in the early hours of morning.
Without any further adieu, here is Black Mountain’s “Wucan.”
Check out the Black Mountain Army website and the slew of cool stuff that awaits. Everything is white text on a black background. Awesome.
Dougie Dexter was way ahead of his time. In a few years, I would endure the dronic rhythmic assault in every “Boss Level” scene in a video game. That horrible repetetive 180 bpm techno music that would play over and over until finally, Mario or Link or Little Mac or Tifa or Samus Aran or whoever would deliver the death blow and then – victory music! I don’t remember any victory music in Doug’s garage. I wonder what it might have been, but Black Mountain would have probably been the best wandering the woods, skulking through the dungeon, and battling the demi-lich music ever.
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