For a few years now something exciting has been brewing in Stoke-on-Trent. Fuelled by chainsaw guitars, pounding rhythms and raw, spat, aggressive vocals, that something is Black Coast.
When they burst out of the traps as an unsigned band with their ferocious debut single, ‘Mercenary’, it was difficult not to get excited. Likewise when they put out their EP Crows Of The North. For a band to come out swinging and sounding so fully formed from the off, that takes something special.
It was little surprise when Black Coast got picked up by management and then a label, and they started the slog of playing shows here, there and everywhere, carving out a reputation as a ferocious live band in the process.
In terms of recorded material, though, the pace has been much slower. A couple of excellent singles aside, we had to wait until the end of last year for another EP: Ill Minds Vol I.
For whatever reason, that EP didn’t seem to make as big a splash as one might have expected – there’s nothing particularly wrong with the material presented by the band, more that it just seemed to get lost in the end of year rush. It didn’t seem to cut through.
Thankfully though, we’ve not had to wait long for more. Vol II is here and, wow, does it pack a punch.
The main reason this EP absolutely slams is that is plays to Black Coast’s strengths: venom, beats and big bastard riffs. From start to finish across this quintet of ragers you are spoiled for choice when it comes to mosh-worthy fodder.
It all kicks off with the thundering chug of ‘Act II’, a riff that simply forces you to take notice before giving way to some of the most refined lead guitar parts of this band’s career so far. This fretwork wizardry is backed with a massive chorus and oozes the same kind of vibes that were found all over their debut EP. Tasty.
Following that with a looming, atmospheric instrumental track is a bold move, but the quality of ‘Solace’ sees Black Coast pull it off, especially as they then launch into ‘Weird’, another tune full of highly accomplished lead work and soaring melodies.
This is probably as close to mainstream as Black Coast have ever sounded, and yet it is still full of edge and monstrous drumming.
‘Diablo’ is next, a song that bets its lot on the fact that it can make you bang your head before it is done using a delicious combination of groove and swagger. One listen and you’ll realise it’s a bet the band and this song win.
However, the real gem here comes right at the end in the form of ‘Lost My Limits’, which harks back to that initial fuse of excitement they lit with ‘Mercenary’ three years ago.
It rides into town on the back of a swinging opening riff – its vocals full of piss and fire – before manoeuvring through a couple of time changes either side of a fist-punching mid-section where Black Coast show that, sometimes, less can be more.
It feels harsh to call Ill Minds Vol I a misstep – it would also be untrue and unfair to do so. But that collection was the first time Black Coast merely sounded good without forcing you to stop and listen.
With Vol II, though, there’s no way of ignoring this band. This is everything great about them and bodes incredibly well for the next step.
Welcome back, boys. Welcome back.
Ill Minds Vol II is out now on Primordial Records.