Black Mountain is the musical version of onomonopia, an act whose music sounds like its name would have you believe. In this case: rugged, fierce and clouded with history. The band itself has only been playing for just over half a decade, but the music feels brow-beaten and worn, lacking only the pop and hiss of a record player’s needle and a basement full of lava lamps. Their third album, Wilderness Heart, finds Black Mountain more than comfortable with letting their music speak for itself without the servile undertones of Black Mountain or the expansive experimentalism of In The Future.
So comfortable, in fact, that the album kicks off with “The Hair Song”, one of the most fun songs Black Mountain has ever recorded. The staggered percussion and cocksure guitars are (eerily) reminiscent of later Oasis, or Jet while they were trying to sound like later Oasis. Fortunately there’s enough organ solos and distorted guitar breaks to remind us that this isn’t Oasis or Jet, and the tone shifts quickly by the second cut, “Old Fangs”, with a grinding beat and a grungy set of chord progressions.
This is the best time for new listeners to step into Black Mountain’s realm, catching their trademark classic rock sound delivered in catchy, bite-sized pieces of no longer than five and a half minutes. The vocal balance between lead singer Stephen McBean and Amber Webber is inspired, and should also lend itself to greater listenability. With songs like “Radiant Hearts” and “Buried By The Blues”, this is psychedelia with a safe word; no real risk to those timid listeners of getting caught up in the double-digit minute opuses of In The Future, while still preserving the music’s general essence. A song like “The Way To Gone” is no less metal for reining in its powerful Zeppelin-like solos to a tidy four minutes, for example.
While this particular embodiment of Black Mountain won’t satisfy everyone, it will appeal to more people than just the genre snobs and retro geeks, and it will do so without lacking in production or musicality. More than anything, Wilderness Heart lays some pretty impressive groundwork for the band’s future, insisting that the last two records weren’t a fluke, and indicating that their Physical Graffiti may be right around the corner.