Band: Black Peaks
Album: All That Divides
Label: Rise Records / BMG / ADA Warner
The world is a divided place. Right and Left; north and south; rich and poor; young and old; hate and peace; intolerance and acceptance.
For longer than he cares to remember, Will Gardner has struggled to come to terms with such separation. As frontman of Black Peaks, one of British rock’s most progressive, dynamic young rock acts, he and his bandmates have experienced firsthand the human impact of such division. Formed in 2012, the success of the Brighton quartet’s critically acclaimed breakout debut album Statues saw a rapid ascension to sell-out headline success and festival mainstages in their native country, and to sharing stages across Europe with legendary names including Deftones, Mastodon, Prophets Of Rage, The Dillinger Escape Plan, System Of A Down and more.
Yet while the rock world united behind the band’s riff-heavy, technically accomplished and prog-infused alt.rock, Black Peaks were on the road, watching the world fall apart around them from their tour bus windows.
“Even two years ago, we would never have imagined that the world would be in such a place where you are fighting for equality for all people of any gender, sexuality or skin colour,” Gardner states. “But now, we’re suddenly in a position where that is being challenged and threatened on a daily basis.”
It is against this backdrop that Black Peaks reveal their stunning second album, All That Divides; part lament against a conflicted planet unraveling at the seams, part call to arms that change can only come from within. “A big theme of this record is us asking ourselves and the world, ‘How the fuck did this happen?’” Gardner sighs.
Lead single Can’t Sleep, which opens the album, tackles the rise of the far right at home and abroad as Gardner howls <<’Hollow is their souls / and they follow / how their hateful seed it grows.’>> Championed as both Dan P. Carter’s Rockest Record and Huw Stephens’ Single Of The Week by BBC Radio 1 upon its release, it is both a tonal and thematic scene-setter from which All That Divides spirals through an exploration of topics both deeply personal and globally relevant.
These are broad subjects dealt with, Gardner nods, through a personal prism. All That Divides is not a political album, per se, but a human one, the frontman and lyricist seeking answers and solutions amidst the confusion, anxiety and depression from which he soon found himself suffering. Gardner points to Brexit, confirmed through the UK referendum of June 2016 at a time when Black Peaks were on tour in Germany, as a toll-taking event that left he and his band questioning their connection with their home nation. “We felt cut off and isolated from our country,” he says. “The huge spur of racial attacks across the UK fuelled the right wing press, who felt they could say the most horrendous things about fellow human beings. The fascist mentality was so shocking to see. Some of our friends and families were abused by people on the street.” A feeling a powerlessness was only further reinforced when, returning home, the band were brought face to face with the level of human suffering taking place as the immigration crisis birthed the ‘Calais Jungle’ in Northern France.
The effects of all this, coupled with a burned-out exhaustion of two years heavy touring, had by summer of 2017 left Black Peaks in need of revitalization. Returning home, and with bassist Andrew Gosden deciding to take leave from the band to be replaced by Dave Larkin, guitarist Joe Gosney and drummer Liam Kearley slowly set to working on ideas for the band’s next album – “Putting together the puzzle pieces,” as Gosney describes it.
“I think on Statues there was a lot of guesswork,” the guitarist says. “We’ve always worked to the idea that if something makes us excited to play, that’s where we should go. Having played hundreds and hundreds of shows, we figured out what had worked for us live, too, so we followed that approach. I wanted the new record to have a rawer sound so we could pull it off better live.”
Enter GRAMMY Award-winning producer/engineer Adrian Bushby (Foo Fighters, Muse, Feeder), who was recruited to help a band of obsessive perfectionists let go of the reins and focus more on capturing the feeling and mood of the album that was percolating in their minds.
Recording at the tail of 2017’s bitter winter, Gosney and Gardner both agree, was possibly the most exciting two weeks of the band’s lives.
“We ended up recording the album in order, track by track,” Gosney says. “With Statues we didn’t do it, and it was only at the end that we got to hear the album as a whole. It was really exciting to hear All That Divides slowly coming to life as an album. We put a great deal of thought into how it worked song to song, and how they flowed into one another.”
The result is a collection of songs that, as individual components, soar on the back of majestic highs and crashing nosedives, but which when considered as a whole, combine to create a deeply rich tapestry that rewards repeat listens with even greater revelations. It is a challenging album of ambition, grandeur and scope, released at the time where artists increasingly give little credence or thought to the album concept; yet further evidence of the aspirations of a band for whom the idea of sacrificing their creative vision is anathema.
“An album is a journey, isn’t it?” smiles Gardner. “I think it’ll be a real shame if people only listen to the singles. It’s meant to be listened to as an album, as a body of work. It was composed that way, and recorded that way. It’s how it’s meant to be listened to. You have more to emotionally connect with, and I think that’s why it’s important to us.”
Equally, it is important to Gardner that people take not a message of despondency from All That Divides, but one of a hope for a better future. He points to Aether, a song nestled at the album’s heart, and the closing Fate I & II as important moments on the record. Painting the vision of an open field and lake seen through a cluster of trees, the former finds the frontman hopefully stating, <<‘Can you believe / How we turned something so Dark / Into so bright.’>>, while Fate’s closing lines <<‘We’ll sail away to brighter shores / We’ll walk away / We’ll sail away / We’ll pass away’>> hang in the air and in the mind long after the album’s conclusion.
“It is about having a sense of optimism and knowing it will be ok if we work together and strive to make things better,” Gardner concludes. “It’s us saying, ‘We have a turning point now.’ It’s us saying, ‘Look at where we are, look at this mess, but now we have a chance; we have a chance to turn this around.’
“It’s us saying, ‘Things don’t have to be this way any more.’”