Sound — 7
When Black Stone Cherry came onto the music scene, they brought with them a Southern rock sound that was unique to the modern rock scene. This sound was continued throughout "Black Stone Cherry" and "Folklore and Superstition, "but the band seemingly abandoned it for a radio friendly, run of the mill hard rock sound on "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." My hope was that Magic Mountain would go back to their old sound, but this is sadly not the case. "Magic Mountain" is an attempt to get back Black Stone Cherry's signature sound, but it falls short. The general trend on this album is unique and creative verses which are often overshadowed but uninspiring choruses. Many of the songs have catchy and well thought out guitar solos, something which most modern hard rock music does not. While I won't give an in depth description of every song's sound, the album can be grouped into a few sub categories of sound:
The radio hard rock song; "Holding On... To Letting Go," "Bad Luck and Hard Love," "Me and Mary Jane," "Never Surrender," and "Fiesta Del Fuego" can all be put in this categories. Drop tuned guitars playing 3 or 4 chords choruses to watered down lyrical content.
The less radio friendly hard rock; "Peace Pipe," "Magic Mountain," "Blow My Mind," "Dance Girl," and "Remember Me" all fall into this category. Less mundane, less unique, but for the most part nothing too special. The exception here is "Peace Pipe," which to me may be one of the best songs BSC have ever written.
The ballads; "Runaway" and "Sometimes" are both ballads, with "Runaway" being a bit more poppy and "Sometimes" following a very Pearl Jam-esque sound.
The country song; "Hollywood in Kentucky" is a typical modern country song. Something about this song does feel heartfelt though, it's a very solid, fun song.
To sum things up, one would have a hard time finding a bad song on this album, however one would also have a very difficult time finding something new, original, or groundbreaking as well.
Lyrics — 5
While the lyrics might be better on "Magic Mountain" than on "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," they cannot compare to "Black Stone Cherry" or "Folklore and Superstition." Rather than talking about American folklore and legends, the band decides to talk mainly about the rockstar life of women and drugs on this album. The topic of drug use is one disappointing venture from past Black Stone Cherry albums. From the entire song "Me and Mary Jane" to "Fiesta Del Fuego"'s "We damn sure tried to smoke the evidence." to "Peace Pipe"'s "We should just be getting high." drug references abound. "Dance Girl" is a typical song about strippers which seems to be a must for today's rock bands. The most heartfelt lyrics on the album come from the ballad "Sometimes" which covers the topic of depression, loneliness, and failure in a relationship. For the most part though Chris Robertson is an extraordinary singer delivering ordinary lyrics, which is a shame to say the least.
Overall Impression — 7
"Magic Mountain" is not the worst album Black Stone Cherry has ever made, but it certainly is not the best. The band has been stuck in a conundrum many of today's rock acts find themselves in; whether to be creative and unique artists who play for smaller crowds and achieve less success or to sell out and follow the industry standard, play huge venues, receive much more recognition, but all at the cost of their artistic creativity. Black Stone Cherry tries to please everyone with this album by blending a southern rock vibe with a radio rock sound. It's a noble idea which turns out less great. The trippy '70s sounding intros to songs like "Remember Me" and the bass fuzz on "Fiesta Del Fuego" just eventually lead to radio rock choruses. If the band would've continued those sounds throughout the entire song, they could have made something truly special which would conjure memories of such great artists as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Molly Hatchet, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Hopefully in the future they will carry these sounds throughout every song, because then they will have something truly great.