Album Review: Black Mountain - Wilderness

on Sunday, September 26, 2010
Words: Simon Opie

Black Mountain - 'Wilderness Heart' (13 September)

Black Mountain's sophomore album 'In The Future' (from 2008) was one of my favorite albums of the 21st century's first decade. I think that 'Wilderness Heart', their third album, is even better.

The songs are shorter and punchier - cynics might suggest in an attempt to sell more records - but in fact you can trace the journey from 2004's 'Druganaut' (their debut EP) to 'Wilderness Heart' as one of a stripping away of excess material to get to the core of each song. Less is more, you might say and the music is all the better for it - not that I am fundamentally opposed to 16 minute songs.

The first thing you notice on opener 'The Hair Song' is that the drums which have previously seemed to be dubbed on at the end of the recording process, almost as an afterthought, crash straight in and take the song by the scruff of the neck. Drums and percussion remain an element of propulsion throughout the album - with a noticeable hike in energy levels. Third song in, 'Radiant Hearts', is the only throwback to the roots of Black Mountain, and could be an outtake from the previous album - but the next song, 'Rollercoaster' (my favorite track) picks up the thread which is maintained to the end - and even after repeated listening the album finishes before you really want it to.

With Black Mountain there is always the impression of listening to an album recorded in the early seventies but, with Hammond organ prominent, this time it's more Deep Purple than Black Sabbath - although 'Let Spirits Ride' opens like Sabbath, morphs into Purple and then ends up pure Black Mountain. Of course, the real trick is that the early seventies never actually sounded at all like this (you can trust me on this one). Just as Led Zeppelin in their time took 40 year old blues songs and twisted them into a modern idiom, so do Black Mountain take inspiration from music of a similar 40 year vintage and blow it out into something contemporary and truly innovative.

Vancouver is evidently a perfect place to fuse elements of old and new, with a music scene which is characterized by this approach. You can detect influences of another excellent Vancouver band, Blood Meridian (which actually features two members of Black Mountain) in the song structures on 'Wilderness Heart' and the best thing about the album is the sense of a talented group of musicians increasingly finding their unique and hugely entertaining voice. For sure, they're gonna be huge.

STREAM: Black Mountain - The Hair Song

STREAM: Black Mountain - Old Fangs

Pick up a free sampler from Jagjuguwar, containing an mp3 of 'Old Fangs'.

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