Franco-American trio Blaak Heat (formerly Blaak Heat Shujaa) are an intriguing beast. On songs like the mystically enchanting The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim they conjure images of pilgrim caravans under the baleful watch of Knights Templar escorts struggling through the deserts of the holy land; Sonically they sound like a less metallic Orphaned Land.
Yet elsewhere – the scintillating Ballad of Zeta Brown for instance – the straight-up middle Eastern tinges are swept away to the fringes in favour of a guitar fantasia concocted by guitarist Thomas Bellier that lurches wildly from Jeff Beck, through Link Wray to Carlos Santana… You’ll be swept up in it’s thrall, of that there’s no denying, carried away by the delicious sense of anticipation as you crane your ears to see which turn the band will take next.
Black Hawk delivers the doom in a scittery, edgy sort of fashion that you assume an Ozzy-led Black Sabbath would adopt were they just setting out on their journey today, whilst the hypnotic Mola Mamad Djan injects elements of tango and Klezma into the mix as if enough wasn’t going on already.
Bellier and his cohorts Mike Amster and Tom Davies (of Nebula fame) – on drums and bass respectively – have cooked up an absolutely mesmerising conflation with Shifting Mirrors. Even at their most straightforward – the riffy The Peace Within just about fits the term ‘straightforward’ in the context of this record – they beguile, adding a Barrettesque psychedelia to their highly burnished steel, and on no song is an idea allowed to settle for too long before being supplanted by another of at least equal merit. So much is going on here that you’ll find you need return visits – lots of them – to fully comprehend whats being attempted (and achieved), but quite honestly that’s a task I can’t see anyone eschewing given the high, high quality of material on offer with this record.
There’s no point recommending this to fans driven by love for any specific genre – this will simply appeal to anyone with the sense to realise that Blaak Heat are a very special proposition indeed. Top notch stuff, and recommended without hesitation…
Shifting Mirrors is out now on Svart Records.