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Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart

McBean and the band fluctuate between sludgy, moody metal and more tranquil, acoustic-based numbers.

Vancouver’s favorite 70s-throwback outfit, Black Mountain, charge back onto the scene with their third record, ‘Wilderness Heart’, which finds the band scaling back quite a bit on the heavier, overwrought aspects of their first two releases, presenting a concise, if a bit subdued, twist on their decidedly retro sound. The new record features a more pronounced psych-folk presence that noticeably colours the band’s current sound and direction, which is surely due to frontman Stephen McBean’s continued involvement in Black Mountain’s gentler, easygoing cousin, Pink Mountaintops. Instead of fully indulging his roots-rock inclinations like he does in the Mountaintops, ‘Wilderness Heart’ finds McBean and the band fluctuating between sludgy, moody metal and more tranquil, acoustic-based numbers. That inconsistency creates an uneven, somewhat exasperating listen that never truly coalesces enough to fully engage the listener, and ultimately we are left wondering exactly what type of band Black Mountain truly aspire to be.

The record kicks-off in a mellow manner, with the acoustic stomp of ‘The Hair Song,’ which sounds so similar to ‘Hey Hey What Can I Do’ that I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Mountain had to pay royalties. But, let’s be honest, just about every band has ripped off Zeppelin at least once in their career, so we won’t hold that indiscretion against the Canadian quintet. The problem is, the song just isn’t all that interesting, especially for a lead off track. But it announces straight away that this regrettably isn’t the same band from ‘In The Future’, as both their tone and tenor has tempered considerably. There are hints of that neglected mercurial atmosphere layered within ‘Old Fangs,’ which has a welcome testiness to it, but unfortunately that vivacity dissipates as the album plays on. ‘Radiant Hearts’ is bland and ineffectual, with mystical lyrics masquerading as a love song, while ‘Rollercoaster’ and the title track unfortunately sounds like rehashed Wolfmother, which is never a good thing.

‘Let Spirits Ride’ is a straightforward rocker, channeling both Maiden and Sabbath in a way that is more of an homage than mere plagiarism, which is why the song works here. But for every bold step forward the band takes on this record, it’s quickly followed by a timid step backwards, as ‘Buried By The Blues’ and ‘The Way To Gone’ are just sleepy missteps that only sound that much more tranquil following the explosiveness of ‘Ride.’ Things only get worse on ‘The Space Of Your Mind’ which regrettably echoes Poison, a band that should remain buried in the past. It’s been clear from the first record that Black Mountain have been mining their influences while finding their sound, but this atrocity finds the band digging far too deep and in the wrong musical direction. It’s simply an awful song, which ‘Sadie,’ the serene closing track, sadly does little to make you forget about. The album ends with such a lifeless whimper that it makes you wonder what Black Mountain have left in the tank at this point. It seems that in an effort to satisfy all of their particular musical urges, they have released a muddled, disjointed record that unfortunately finds the band losing both their originality and their focus.

Tags: Black Mountain, Reviews, Album Reviews

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