Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart

Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart

Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart

Black Mountain is an institution. They also get little sleep. Lead singer Stephen Mcbean heads up similar Canadian alternative psych rock outfits Jerk With A Bomb and Pink Mountaintops. Co-singer, Amber Webber and drummer Joshua Wells are a part of the much underrated Lighting Dust. Joshua Wells also takes part in Blood Meridian with Matt Camirand. Along with their laundry list of side projects, some of the members also work for a an organization promoting a sterile needle program for the greater Vancouver area. By all intents and purposes, Black Mountain seems to be a creative commune whose sole purpose seems to be the avocation of well being and mind-bending rock and roll.

In 2005, Black Mountain released their self titled debut. Taking cues from late 60’s psychedelic rock and the equal experimental roots of German krautrock, the release was nothing short of a spectacular entrance by a band rolling down a Canadian hill. Their follow up In The Future was exponentially more grand in its quest to mimic mid 70’s psychedelia with arena rock leanings. We now arrive at 2010, a time when Black Mountain descends the fabled hillside to offer unto us: Wilderness Heart, a record that is perhaps the culmination of everything they have been working for.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about this album as it played on an ipod hookup to a large stereo system. If anyone needs more imagery, we were standing beside a large open bay window which looked out onto a large rural lake. It was nighttime and my feet were bare against the recently mopped wooden floor. This person who was also without shoes, mentioned that in the 5 years Black Mountain has been around, they always managed to fade from interest. This interest eventually returned after the release of further albums accompanied by a sense of guilt for having forgot about them in the first place. It is strange how the feeling of guilt can be apart of the music experience and how this guilt can lead to a personal quest of understanding. This anecdote made me realize this very important fact; that I never knew how much I liked this band until Wilderness Heart.

Wilderness Heart is not initially grabbing. To a casual listener the band does a nominal job of recreating the high points which defined 70’s classic rock. The band has been unfairly chained by the “stoner rock” tag as to say their entire purpose in life is to costume themselves in a retro proto metal wig. To be fair, the stoner rock tag fits Black Mountain‘s blues-heavy hard psychedelic. In fact, this is probably where I would start in describing them to another person. While stoner rock is a justifiable description, its classification is rooted in a shallow throwback whose purpose is limited to imitation. To stop at this playful recreation would be a grievance against a band whose sum totals more than shag carpets and conversion vans with wizards painted on the side.

As with their earlier works, the true charm of this record does not kick in until subsequent listens. “Wilderness Heart” is laced with dreamy synth lines and conversational segments between Mcbean and Amber Weber. The tight knit melodies and progressive song structures snake through the ten tracks pulling in a myriad of unrelated genres. This is where Black Mountain departs from their stoner rock contemporaries. There is no desire to be synonymous with the titans of 70’s. If Black Mountain used a historical point as a starting point, it has only veered completly off track. Each song has its own strong points that is completely unrelated to neighboring tracks. Unlike “In The Future,” “Wilderness Heart” makes it points in subtly. In The Future closed with an overwrought 16 minute epic “Bright Lights;” which was fantastic in its ambition but feel short in its execution. No song on Wilderness Heart extends past 5 minutes and for all the right reasons.  The 5 minute minimalist closer Sadie does everything that Bright Lights wanted to in a shorter time span with a greater amount of pressure.

Subsequent listens to “Wilderness Heart” only strengthens the resolve and makes it a strong contender for the end of the year. Black Mountain is a stoner rock band which manages to have a foot in multiple decades. There is some guilt associated with this album and my personal waning from a band that deserves more recognition than it has received.

Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart Tracklist:

The Hair Song
Old Fangs
Radiant Hearts
Roller Coaster
Let Spirits Ride
Buried By the Blues
The Way to Gone
Wilderness Heart
The Space of Your Mind

Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart, reviewed by Kaptain Carbon on 2010-09-30T14:00:54-07:00 rating 4.1 out of 5

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