Album Review: Black Mountain-Wilderness Heart

photo: Daniel Goncalves

by Jack Diablo
There are but a handful of players in today’s music industry who seem to have that Midas touch when it comes to their various musical projects. Among those I hold in the highest regard are the likes of Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound, Lotus Plaza), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Sunset Rubdown), Greg Anderson (Sunn O))), Goatsnake, Thorr’s Hammer) and Stephen McBean (Black Mountain, Pink Mountaintops). When one of these miracle workers puts out an album it tends to get my immediate, undivided attention and, in most cases, satisfies me in every way. McBean’s latest release with Black Mounatin, Wilderness Heart, is no exception.
There are essentially two albums to be found on this record. One was recorded in dreary, shadowy Seattle by Randall Dunn, the engineer behind Sunn O))) and Boris’ Altar album, the other in sunny Los Angeles. Although Wilderness Heart opens with the catchy, almost summery pop tune of ‘Hair Song,’ it immediately descends into the heavy, psychedelic pounding of ‘Old Fangs’ and the folky yet metallic ‘Radiant Hearts.’ By doing so they confidently admit that while yes, this is our poppiest album to date, it’s also going to be the heaviest. There is but a tiny leap from ‘Let Spirits Ride’ to Sabbath or even Motorhead. Basically, if you want to get your girlfriend into metal, you should play her this album.
Black Mountain has been gradually evolving into a powerful juggernaut of rock ‘n’ roll since their first album. While their music has been consistently druggy and psychedelic it has maintained a pop sensibility even while uniting seemingly disparate realms and recalling the work of stoner groups from Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd to the Velvet Underground. But unlike say, Queens of the Stone Age, Black Mountain keeps it pretty real and really dark.
Time will show that McBean et al have accomplished the near-impossible in creating a record that will bring Black Mountain to a wider audience without sacrificing their integrity or losing any old fans. The only thing missing are the epic jams-outs that always found their way onto the previous albums. We can only hope for an EP follow-up with an extended version or two.
Black Mountain will bring their stoner pop-metal to Orlando’s The Social with co-headliners The Black Angels (also reviewed this issue) on October 13th. –