Black Map’s dynamics bring to mind Torche’s brand of stoner metal, but Driver is perhaps too pristine-sounding to warrant any of that band’s sludge associations. Nonetheless, Black Map is a Bay Area hard rock band with driving rhythms and a penchant for soaring vocal melodies.
The band plays with a sense of urgency, but all of it is very controlled. Driver’s four tracks boast pulsing bass and former Trophy Fire frontman Ben Flanagan’s occasionally strained but always in-tune vocals. Combined, these elements sometimes push Driver into grunge territory, but each song largely sticks to the blueprint defined by its opening minute.
These songs are very to-the-point. “Gold” benefits from such directness because it’s uptempo and short, and the band punctuates the song by revisiting its memorable between-verse transition riff in a delayed ending, which speaks to Black Map’s habit of finding a hook and driving it in further. At the same time, hooks comprise weighty, riff-driven rock-and-roll elements rather than any sort of pop-rock disposition.
Driver is chorus-heavy from start to finish. More than once, Black Map repeats a chorus or line during a song’s bridge, albeit with adjusted dynamics. “Let’s tie our ropes together so tight they never sever,” sings Flanagan repeatedly on “Ropes.” The pure energy and reasonable song lengths prevent those repetitions from wearing thin, thankfully. In fact, all four of these tracks would fit well in a modern rock radio playlist.
Driver isn’t a very daring record, but it’s a promising debut EP that’ll be appreciated by those who prefer straightforward rock to complex theatrics.
Review by Anthony Glaser