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Black Mountain

Wilderness Heart

[Jagjaguwar; 2010]

By ; November 2, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

There are probably two ‘legit’ reasons why some might not like this record. You don’t like bands who single out a bygone era’s tune, or you’re a huge BM fan and you were expecting them to get out there, pushing the envelope a little more. If you’re not hung up on one of these ‘issues’ then, seriously what is not to like? Black Mountain should be commended for providing some good listening. While lo-fi, chillwave, noise rock, and all kinds of other indie sub-genre emerging acts are a dime a dozen, Black Mountain proudly departs from the party and offers up a refreshingly honest tribute to an era long past, likely leaving scenesters throwing up in their mouths and classic rock dudes rejoicing for their new favorite head banger.

As far as the record’s overall theme, this is the most concise and directionally focused BM album thus far. This Canadian outfit of hippies bail their previous attempts at self-production and the result is a more polished, straight forward, and accessible sounding LP than past efforts. Drawing on a plethora of classic rock authorities they hone in on a consistent sound. Based on a simple formula that juxtaposes metal with folk they manage to channel Black Sabbath ‘riffage’ within a reflective acoustic sing-a-long framework. The album’s vibe is literally bi-polar. All the tracks are either laden with heavy, chugging metal riffs, or are slow, with a quiet reminiscence of a balance that Led Zeppelin pioneered so well. Stephen McBean and Amber Webber trade off on lead vocal and duets deftly driving home the mixed dynamic concept.

Whether you think they are just biding time or recreating those ‘sounds of old’ one thing should be agreed upon, the songwriting, lyrics, and tones on this record are quite good. The album opens up with “The Hair Song” as McBean and Webber belt out a southern tinged uplifting rocker. Next up, “Old Fangs” merges distorted organ tones and trippy synth sounds over a running palm muted guitar. Later in “Mountain Rollercoaster” the band matches dark tortured bass and chords with cool keys. No sound is more Sabbath than “Let The Spirits Ride.” Perhaps one of the best songs on the record and the band’s most creative independent achievement is the acoustic track “Buried By The Blues.” String-like synths coat over a tinny sounding acoustic guitar while dreamy vocal lines of the chorus “away from the static and noise” take you on a journey to a longed-for escape into an imaginary and beautiful landscape. The good vibes don’t really fade as the rest of the tracks on the record finish strong with much the same key ingredients.

Yet, as well done as this effort is, you would still have a point if you took exception to Black Mountain’s reluctance to experiment with new sounds on this album. It will catch your ear but because the sounds are so familiar it is not likely to linger on to become your next classic. It’s an album that dwells on the refinement of their craft at this stage of their growth. Black Mountain is making an effort to reach wider audiences here. If that was the plan, I back it.


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