Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart

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In Black Mountain’s precious release, In the Future, I found a band that could find a groove, usually a heavy one, and take it enjoyably wherever it led.  Whether by label advice or their own intent, their new CD, Wilderness Heart, backs off on the jams and moves towards more concise songs, though maintaining much of their fuzzed bass, psychedelic sounds. 

Vocalists Stephen McBean and Amber Webber continue to provide an intriguing duet approach to the songs, setting them apart from from the masses that would focus on harmonies.  Still, a harmony would be nice, once in a while.

But there’s more to say than just the songs are shorter. Included are several acoustic guitar based songs, which work well enough in broadening the band’s range.  While they don’t have the shimmering keyboards or bass fuzz, the vocals are sufficient to keep with the hippie-ness of the songs.  But I didn’t buy this album to hear a broadened range, and their acoustic songs lack the intimacy of a “Tangerine” or “Gallows Pole” ala Zep III.  I had hoped to hear more of their instrumental work – more emotional, more cutting, more practiced, more pounding.  But that’s just me, hoping for a band to take what they did well and improve on it.

The other aspect which doesn’t work as well is the lyrics.  When songs go 7 minutes with lengthy instrumental breaks, I really don’t care what they may actually be singing about if the music is really good.  Here, without the extended grooves, I have to pay attention, and they lack substance – and often sense.  They likely appeal to pubescent teens who find meaning in the imagery of fantasy writers – chemical planes, maidens, flickering lights, wolves, fortresses, bloody visions, storms… Nevertheless, those are the “riches” that make some sort of sense within the confines of thundering Black Sabbath laden power chords and anthemic delivery.

And I guess it’s the delivery I’m missing.  Everything here sounds like it’s a starting point for they way they really want to play it in concert.  Cut the trash (“Radiant Hearts,” “Roller Coaster,” “Buried by the Blues”) and do it right for the buying public, I say.

Recommended: “Old Fangs,” “The Wilderness Heart,” “Let Spirits Ride”

3 of 5 STARS

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