“Genius might be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way.”
Black Map creates music driven by the pulse of their early genesis as a trio who packed itself into a rehearsal room with pure intentions, a 12-pack and a boundary-smashing lack of prohibitions or rules. Their commitment is to each other, to what feels right; to meditation on big riffs that lurch and churn, dripping with atmosphere, powering bold and evocative statements. Strip away pretension, forego the focus on shiny perfectionism, and the heavy rock roots of massive guitars, drums, bass and vocals evoke primal feelings and channel universal urges more complicated styles seldom touch.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but in the case of Black Map, the destination beckoning from within the soundscape of their songs is someplace much less literal, ‘though no less devilishly foreboding.
Black Map is the union of three established Northern California rock musicians, driven by a shared dedication to big riffs, big drums and powerful, straight-ahead, all enveloping rock n’ roll. Black Map consists of the versatile voice and walloping bass groove of Ben Flanagan (Trophy Fire), the wall-of-sound big riff histrionics of guitarist Mark Engles (dredg) and the unstoppable driving force and tasteful skill of drummer Chris Robyn (Far).
A few songs became a few shows and an EP which begat a debut album, ...And We Explode (2014), which featured the buzzy single, “I’m Just the Driver.” The metaphorical “black map” of the band’s steadily building Trace The Path (2018) catalog and dedicated following led them to secure live performance spots alongside the mighty Chevelle, multi-platinum rockers Bush, Circa Survive, and Highly Suspect in addition to multiple club shows as a headlining act.
Black Map returned to the studio with producer Aaron Hellam at Oakland’s Hellman Sound and created an ambitious but no less intense sophomore set, a boundary smashing, down-tuned heavy rock slab called In Droves. After the release of In Droves, the band went on to play over 100 shows in support. Black Map was used to playing the club scene before but soon found success at mainstream American rock festivals. In 2017 the band performed at Chicago Open Air, Aftershock, Rock Allegiance, Louder Than Life and Rise Above festivals. Black Map was also proud to be nominated for “Best New Artist” at the 2017 Loudwire Music Awards.
During their time on the road, the band did not slow down their creative flow. On the bus and in dressing rooms the band hashed out new ideas, riffs, and lyrics that quickly amounted to more than a few completed songs. The band booked some studio time in between festivals with producer Mike Watts in Long Island, NY and got to work while recording one more song with longtime collaborator Aaron Hellam in Oakland upon their return home. Black Map released those songs on an EP called Trace The Path in February as a standalone release just as their support tour with label-mates Pop Evil kicked off.
Singer Ben Flanagan says “It was a beautiful challenge to put only four songs out at once in EP form and have them not only stand on their own but also work together and really say something and be powerful and meaningful.” As they continue forward, ever united in that original pureness of intentionality, Black Map covers bigger ground. Bursts of ambience and mellow contemplation compliment the broadly shaped melodic noise. Unafraid experimentation gives way to a strong dichotomy, to new elements, all within that original structure of Black Map’s monster riffing.
Sonic treasure hunters who study Black Map will find themselves transported to the spirit of the early 90s rock resurgence, when bands jettisoned the superficial fluff of the previous decade without wandering too far into dense pretension and delivered authentic and heavy music. Black Map combine flourishes of beauty alongside the bombast and a modern sensibility that nevertheless will not sacrifice its raw realness.