There are releases that sometimes don't catch your eye to begin with. With a lull toward year's end, it seemed like a good time for me to look at the releases that had gone unreviewed and see what may have been missed. Fortunately, I saw this release from Black Map. The name didn't ring a bell, but I did some research and found that dredg guitarist Mark Engles was in the band.
Being a huge dredg fan, that's good enough for me!
Black Map are a power trio with drummer Chris Robyn and bassist/vocalist Ben Flanagan rounding things out,
making for a very tight band with not many overdubs needed. Ben has a very strong, excellent voice that works well on every track on "...And We Explode." The band use meaty power chords often and they work quite well on the opener "Code," and on tracks like "Chinaski" and "Gold."
Those songs stick to a more standard power trio format and rock out. But things
are more interesting when Mark uses the guitar style he is known for and offsets the heavy riffs with
ethereal, melodic licks. This can sometimes mean a heavier verse with a more
melodic chorus. "I'm Just the Driver" hints at this dynamic but it shows up more in "Melee," which balances the two styles well. "Head for the Hills" features an appropriate "up hill" guitar riff
during the verse and the aforementioned melodic chorus.
The guitar solos are unmistakably Mark and the album, while inevitably sounding like a heavier version of dredg at times, comes off as the "guitarist's revenge."
There are riffs that would never have made it to a dredg album, but there are
also many riffs and songs that could easily fit on one. "And We Explode, Pt 2"
certainly qualifies with its spacey vibe. The band channels their punk side on "Gemini" which, while not my favorite track, still works well.
The song "Ropes" proves that rhyming words like "together," "heather," and "sever" makes for a very memorable song even after a few listens.
And that's another plus on this album. The band writes very catchy songs and frames them with heavy riffs and interesting arrangements. Fans of dredg
(obviously), Circa Survive, Baroness or Coheed and Cambria should find much to enjoy on "...And We Explode," as I did. Don't let this
release fall through the cracks.