Like an Anatolian fever dream, Blaak Heat engulfs your mind in images of mystic castle mirages, slamming body and soul into an ocean of reverb fuzz. Blaak Heat’s “Mojave soundtracks” rest upon a rich history of musical tradition, drawing from the Middle East as naturally as from Californian deserts and beaches, with one foot still firmly rooted in the streets of Paris. The end result is a timeless, vivid blend of thundering psychedelic rock and Arabian tonalities, an altar to heavy riffage, mind expansion, and social insurgencies.
Blaak Heat are an avant-garde Parisian-American psych rock trio, now signed esteemed and unorthodox leftfield label Svart Records (Oranssi Pazuzu, Beastmilk, Opium Warlords). Formed in Paris by guitarist/singer Thomas Bellier (ex-Spindrift) in 2008, Blaak Heat relocated to Los Angeles in 2012 with drummer Mike Amster and bassist Tom Davies (formerly of psych mavericks Nebula). Dropping the former name of Blaak Heat Shujaa, they became more primal, more indigenous and expanded the Eastern influence by incoorperating more traditional instruments and using percussionist Nelson Bragg (The Brian Wilson Group) to embellish the developing sound.
Shifting Mirrors is an album that is as intriguing as it is perilously unrelenting. By exploring a range of tonalities, tempos, and traditional soundscapes, Blaak Heat are able to traverse a number of musical territories. The lead track from the album, “Sword of Hakim” demonstrates the best of the band’s unruly, bludgeoning guitar tone whilst also creating a technically composite and solid rhythmic approach, which brutally rolls out, leaving the listener feeling transcended.
While Shifting Mirrors comes from the area where bands like Kyuss and Sleep have sprung up from, Blaak Heat is a different kind of desert dweller. By looking into Bellier’s melting pot of global psychedelia one can hear echoes of Amon Düül II, John Zorn, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Magma… as well as old school hard rock and surf such as Captain Beyond and Dick Dale, while still wearing his metal influences proudly on his sleeve. Also buried into this, but not deep enough to be fully submerged, is the under-rooted Eastern influence of arrangements; for example, the track “Mola Mamad Djan” is itself a traditional Afghan folk song, reworked into something altogether more sinister.
The band enlisted the help of Grammy Award-winning Matt Hyde (Deftones, Slayer) to produce the material that makes up this perilous and fervent third album, while Bellier himself co-produced. An established producer in his own right, he used his knowledge from various degrees of involvement on records by Deftones, Soulfly, Danzig, Behemoth, and more to formulate an ambitious and innovative record with Hyde at the helm.
Discussing the nature of the album’s sound, Bellier said, “We took our favorite Middle Eastern sounds and reinterpreted them through the prism of our cultural baggage – weird European psychedelia, a healthy dose of vintage hard rock, experimental jazz… With Matt [Hyde], we were able to mix loud fuzz -guitar tones along with traditional acoustic instruments, such as the oud and the kanun.”
Blending components of progressive rock, psych, metal, and elements of traditional Arabic instrumentation, Shifting Mirrors is the album to transcend Blaak Heat into a further field of avant-garde metal/psych rock, continuing to prove their escalation with a further comprehension and awareness of their surroundings. Succumb to the mystic castle mirages and fall into the relentlessly merciless sound of Blaak Heat