Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart

Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart

What is it about Canada and its proclivity for musical collectives? Black Mountain is yet another, based in Vancouver, with a large regular lineup (check) and an even bigger group of people on records (check). But unlike a similar group who recently performed at the Grammy Awards, these guys are actually good. They play screaming psychedelic rock that is epic without being over the top. Their third album, Wilderness Heart, is a thrill ride from end to end.

“The Hair Song,” their lead-off track, features their female singer, Amber Webber, in a countryesque duet that’s like a less frenetic X, with odd-metered sections that are reminiscent of prog but with so much energy it’s never merely clinical. And its melody is big and memorable, with beautiful harmonies.

“Old Fangs” is a midtempo rocker, with big organ parts straight out of Iron Butterfly, an unusual and memorable melody, and excellent guitar parts. “Rollercoaster” is their jam, a slow anthem about heartbreak, with some brilliant and unusual guitar riffing, interesting vocal arrangement, and a massive chorus. They like constructing songs that that don’t sound like they work, and make them work brilliantly. “The Hair Song” is the most different, with odd-metered sections and odd-sounding chords, but the melody makes it all work. “Rollercoaster” has a dissonant guitar riff that’s nonetheless magnificent and driving.

Black Mountain also creates distinctive arrangements for each song, giving each song its own feel. The stripped-down feel, distinctive melody, and phased vocals, set “The Hair Song” apart, while “Old Fangs” is more full, with phased organ, fuller harmonies, and more guitars.

With so many (and so many bad) psychedelic bands out there, Black Mountain shows what psychedelia should really sound like. Their epic melodies and blistering fretwork place Wilderness Heart head and shoulders above the competition. And the band is no one-trick pony — the album ranges from rockers to keyboard-driven songs to acoustic numbers to string-laden epics. With all its melodic appeal, riffage, and sheer range, Wilderness Heart is fascinating from beginning to end.

(Feature photo by Ryan Walter Wagner.)

(Jagjaguwar -- 1499 West 2nd Street, Bloomington, IN. 47403; http://www.jagjaguwar.com/; Black Mountain -- http://www.myspace.com/blackmountain)
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Review by . Review posted Tuesday, March 1st, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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One Response to “Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart

  1. Seth Grayner on March 11th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    As for “The Hair Song”… it’s a very obvious take on LED ZEPPELIN, not X or any “prog” band… Boooorrrring…

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