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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back In Black,
This review is from: Wilderness Heart (Audio CD)The shadow cast by Black Mountain is large and it is dark. Not content with two high-to-very-high-quality stoner/psych-rock records under that moniker, Stephen McBean and his fellow mountaineers are also responsible for the more relaxed, but equally enticing, psychedelic and rhythmic side-project Pink Mountaintops, as well as counting amongst their ranks long-time member Amber Webber, who leads the chilly, hallucinogenic splinter Lightening Dust.
Certainly not alone in his thinking, this latter project must have impressed Stephen McBean greatly. Perhaps, as a result, Webber's vocal contributions are given greater prominence on Wilderness Heart, the band's third long-player under the Black Mountain umbrella.
Her quivering effect is immediately evident, appearing decisively on the opening duet, "The Hair Song". With extra dimensions such as this on which to concentrate, a decision was made during recording not to self-produce for the first time. However, it's fair to say that this is a largely unnoticeable change, as Wilderness Heart is unquestionably as sleek as its predecessor In The Future, though, at least in parts, it is also a different beast.
It's perhaps telling that half of Wilderness Heart was recorded away from the band's native Vancouver, away even from the northerly gloom of the Seattle studios in which the current album's most iconic, most epic moments were captured. Perhaps, thanks to certain tracks having been laid down in L.A. instead, a little sunshine has been allowed to creep into the mix, and parts of the album do seem subject to a lessening in expected intensity.
Considering the back catalogue, and with the early energetic exception of the downright chuggingly awesome "Old Fangs", Wilderness Heart as a whole does seem decidedly less epic than one might expect. Its quieter, mid-section moments show Webber's influence now has greater reach than just vocals. There's a subtle creep and mild alt-country quality to them, which fans of the Lightning Dust and Pink Mountaintops projects might recognise. And they aren't to be underestimated, though, put to the crucible, on a Black Mountain record, the balance doesn't initially seem quite right between power and restraint.
These initial fears as to the overall quality of Wilderness Heart however are more are less put to bed by rocking extracts like the Sabbath-shredding riff-monster "Let Spirits Ride", as well as by the enormous title track. Less the shark of the artwork then and more a ringer, Wilderness Heart keeps its cards close to its chest, though it comes as little surprise to find more than a couple of aces up its sleeve.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wilderness Heart,
This review is from: Wilderness Heart (Audio CD)Before I get to what Black Mountain's third album sounds like, it's probably worth addressing some of the noises being made about the band itself.
Here are some of the things that you might have heard about Black Mountain: that they're Zep or Sab-dependent Stoner Rock riff merchants; that that, in fact, is all they are; that they're plodding prog dinosaurs or po-faced noodlers short on new ideas and long on indulgent track-lengths; that they're too 1969 in sound, or attitude, or pose, or keyboard noise or lyric or so forth. You may also have heard people lauding their outstanding live performances, though that might well be at the implied detriment of their recorded work.
Recently I've even seen the suggestion that they have a little too much beard about them.
It would take far too long to try and demolish all of these preconceptions, so instead let's admit to those that aren't entirely lazy. Erm. I gather they're not averse to being a bit stoned, and they certainly can rock. Oh, and some of them have beards. Yeah. The rest is probably best summarised by the word 'guff'.
After all, if we're talking about drugs in music, it's also worth mentioning that several of Black Mountain have worked on the drug/homeless outreach programmes in East Vancouver, and are far more grounded than stoner rock cliché would suggest. If we're talking about datedness in rock, it's more the case that they sound at times like what a number of people imagine music to have sounded like in 1969, rather than what the release schedules actually produced at that time. This is in the same way that Sleepy Sun are accused of retro-pilfering despite putting influences together in a way that wasn't available to the bands they're supposed to be identical to. Or like the fact that there's more Coldplay in the TV Idents of our time than in most real collections. The idea of a time isn't necessarily the same as the time itself, then.
Black Mountain certainly are part of a welcome resurgence in referencing late- rather than mid-sixties sounds, a movement that takes in everyone from the previously mentioned Sleepy Sun through Wolf People, The Black Angels and many many more. They do the seventies, too, but labelling anyone with a riff as stoner rock misses the point. You'll notice that Orange Goblin, Kyuss and Monster Magnet are not in that earlier list - it's not because I have no time for them, but more that `stoner rock' is far too limiting a term to describe what Black Mountain (and friends) are actually producing.
So, the third album, then. Firstly, it isn't as immediate as either of their last two, but there are definitely gems enough. While Rollercoaster, Let Spirits Ride or the title track should deliver the kind of riffage and irresistible momentum that some reviews focus exclusively on, on this album the quieter tracks are possibly even stronger. I'm a fan of the loneliness of Radiant Hearts, of the Pink Mountaintops-ish fuzz of Buried By The Blues, and the beautiful descending closer Sadie.
I'm not such a fan of The Hair song, as if anything it's slightly too clean, as are a few of the guitar noodles here and there. If the keyboards still tend a little towards Deep Purple, the Charlatans, or even the BBC Radiophonic workshop, they still fit and complement the sound just as Webber's tremolo vocal input does. Overall, the songs are probably more restrained and to the point, more focused and less likely to ramble than before. This may or may not be to your liking; in my opinion there's still no shortage of ideas, but sometimes it does feel that they're not as explored or well-meshed as before, meaning there's less feeling here of a coherent whole.
So it's probably true that this album is a little patchier than their last two. But it's still a varied and interesting album that isn't dismissable by dint of beardiness, nor a lumpen insistence on claiming that the ideas within are either limited or dated; they're not dated, even if there's a familiarity to the textures of some the instruments used to express them. It also bears repeated plays and shows every sign of growing with familiarity, much like Stephen McBean's frankly incredibly brilliant Outside Love album (released under the Pink Mountaintops name and simply one of the best albums of the last ten years).
You could do a lot worse than buying this album. For all that's said about datedness and partying like it's 1969, Black Mountain remain one of the most rewarding listens of the current musical soundscape. This album may not be all you'd hope for after the last two, but it's still far better than most `new music'. Forget the noises off and listen to what's actually going on.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rock n roll old style,
This review is from: Wilderness Heart (Audio CD)I have just received today the cd of the latest allbum by the Canadians Black Mountain. I am already in possession of their previous two albums. I find this group expressing music that is to be considered out of time.
The music from this new album is in the same lane as their first cd, you put it in your stereo and you won't pull it out for months.
The musical proposal given by Black Mountain in this 3rd chapter is as usual close to a psychedelic rock sound of the 60's, with the incursions of their femal voce it seems very similar in some parts to a modern and cleaned out Jefferson Airplane.
I find this album though a little bit more poised and reflective, but all in all you won't get tired of it even after many listens.
I recommend this album very much, it's vintage rock that has influences from all over but at the same time is very original. Just go out and buy it and don't thank me, thank Black MNouyntain for existing.
4.0 out of 5 stars Climb every Black Mountain.,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wilderness Heart (Audio CD)Do you like Black?
Do you like Mountains?
Do you like Wilderness?
Do you like Hearts?
DO you like Canucks?
Do you like Crazy Canucks?
Do you like Crazy Canucks with a MELLOTRON?
Do you like it Retro?
Well I do, and this well and truly floats my Kayak. Dual male/female vocals, vast slabs of Mellotron, vast slabs of sub-Sabs proto-metal with washings of Purple and a soupcon of more modern day indieness. This is seriously good stuff. And they have beards. Probably.
Buy it, go on, you know you want to, BUY! BUY!! BUY!!!
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wilderness Apart....,
This review is from: Wilderness Heart (Audio CD)Not being Canadian, I don't know anywhere near as much about the band or
it's members as other reviewers here, but I was looking for new
material to get into and I stumbled upon 'Wilderness Heart'.
I've always liked Canadian rock bands though, OLP and The Tea
Party probably the most. But this is different....this is the first
time i'd heard Black Mountain.
When we hear a band for the first time, the question is always..
what/who does it sound like? Musicial identity, then, is hard
to come by...
We live in post post modern times, and at the confluence
of that era, is the mixing of styles... If
Fleetwood Mac were just starting over they'd sound
like Black Mountain, if Black Sabbath were starting over
they'd sound like Black Mountain, if Mazzy Star
were starting over they'd sound like Black Mountain,
dare I say it, if Kyuss were starting over they'd sound like
Black Mountain (or their version of it - bue alas times have changed).
Put all those bands together in one plausible sound
and you have Black mountain.... but simply saying
BM sounds like Fleetwood Mac crossed with Kyuss...is
missing the point...
The point is, bands like Airbourne have taken the baton
from AC/DC - they don't copy them or intentionally sound
like them - Black Mountain are the same and
have the baton firmly in their hands...
I hope they go on to become as huge as those other
bands and make loads more records...
The above is one hell of a thing to say, I agree....
but there's a huge difference between eclectic combinationism,
having influences and just plain sounding like someone else.
Black Mountain, are all those bands and more....in my view..
Did I mention Pink Floyd? Influence? Stand back Wolf Mother...
What does it for me is the richness and depth of the sound,
the lyrics are deep and meaningful, 'Buried by the Blues'
is just sublime. There's nothing fake, pretentious, or
over blown or over stated. I keep looking at the speakers,
the quality of the listening experience is staggering....
I've haven't heard anything this good in a long time -
does that just mean recent rock isn't up to the past
if all the 'old school' are making comebacks?
Back in the mid 90s, my most played CD was
'Welcome to Sky Valley' by Kyuss, I get the same
feeling about Black Mountain and this record
- and I don't even smoke.
5.0 out of 5 stars Like the last thirty years never happened,
This review is from: Wilderness Heart (Audio CD)Black Mountain's third and best album comes with something of a health warning. It's not terribly innovative and if you aren't a fan of 70's rock then you ain't gonna like it. That said, it is a stunning collection of beautifully crafted songs without a single duff track if you are someone who subscribes to their particular aesthetic.
Opener, 'Hair Song' is the most radio friendly song here, rolling off a Led Zeppelin-esque riff and boasting a stonking chorus - 'having their fun with the blues' is a theme that is evident everywhere. 'Old Fangs' follows, lifting off from a Jon Lord keyboard riff but with enough surprises to make it more than just a Deep Purple pastiche. This leads into the majestic 'Radiant Hearts' and the stoner drawl of 'Roller Coaster'. Don't relax too much cos 'Let Spirits Ride' is an all out rocker starting out like Black Sabbath's 'Neon Nights' but turning into something more akin to Hawkwind with a great guitar solo to boot. More songs should do this. You get the idea: loud soft loud, other especial gems are the title track and the beautiful 'Buried by the Blues'.
I guess, I've made it sound terribly derivative but this is truly a great rock album which is why I've given it five stars. Black Mountain transcend their influences to make a record that is a pleasure to listen to. The polished production, subtle, though accomplished musicianship and the way the singers work together make for an album which is way more than the sum of its parts.
Oh yeah, and they're good people too!!
'Play those deathwish chords!'
4.0 out of 5 stars ...all aboard the transition bus...,
This review is from: Wilderness Heart (Audio CD)It's their Led Zep III. Kinda. Yes, the Vancouver sort of rockers have blissed out, mellowed out and got their heads together in the country. Man. Which isn't to say its bad, it's just a bit different. A lot of the juddering riffs are intact, as they try to recreate a world hewn by Black Cheer, they're just a wee bit more restrained, and there are a few more acoustic guitars getting fondled this time around.
Fans of their more psychedelic moments will find a lot to enjoy here, with the likes of 'The Hair Song' and 'The Space Of Your Mind' turning on, tuning in and dropping out with great abandon. There is a fug of organ strewn over the better songs, and there are only a couple of let downs, with 'Let Spirits Ride' the only out and out skipper. However, it's safe to say, that Black Mountain remain at their best when they're rocking out, so it's only their third best album to date.
Hippies will inhale the lyrics with glee, especially as they make the likes of Monster Magnet seem like paragons of straightness, with some of the songs sounding like something out of a 1969 cult handbook, but it's all part of their charm and it rarely grates. So, even with the more out and out musical weirdness downagraded a notch, the words are still, officially, 100% bread and butter. Not that that will stop some of their more space cadet followers from screaming "sell out". They've also discarded the epic songs, which is a bit of a shame, as the editing hasn't really increased the enjoyment ratio.
It's a transition album for Black Mountain, one that will see them shed some fans, as they change direction. Hopefully, enough new faces will climb on board, as it's still an enjoyable album.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better & better,
This review is from: Wilderness Heart (Audio CD)I have bought all their CD's. Whilst initially their influences were rather obvious, this represents a major step forward in terms of songwriting and a more unique sound. Not one dud track. I listen to it again and again
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excited times,
This review is from: Wilderness Heart (Audio CD)Time will tell where Wilderness Heart stakes in comparison to Black Mountains other records. The Only thing matters now is that this record is stuck in my player and this record kick ASS. So many hits, so true rock n roll. Great!
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Wilderness Heart by Black Mountain (Audio CD - 2010)