[sic] Magazine

Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart

The shadow cast by Black Mountain is large and it is dark. Not content with two high-to-very-high-quality stoner/psych-rock records under that moniker, Stephen McBean and his fellow mountaineers are also responsible for the more relaxed, but equally enticing, psychedelic and rhythmic side-project Pink Mountaintops , as well as counting amongst their ranks long-time member Amber Webber , who leads the chilly, hallucinogenic splinter Lightening Dust .

Certainly not alone in his thinking, this latter project must have impressed Stephen McBean greatly. Perhaps, as a result, Webber’s vocal contributions are given greater prominence on Wilderness Heart, the band’s third long-player under the Black Mountain umbrella.

Her quivering effect is immediately evident, appearing decisively on the opening duet, “The Hair Song”. With extra dimensions such as this on which to concentrate, a decision was made during recording not to self-produce for the first time. However, it’s fair to say that this is a largely unnoticeable change, as Wilderness Heart is unquestionably as sleek as its predecessor In The Future, though, at least in parts, it is also a different beast.

It’s perhaps telling that half of Wilderness Heart was recorded away from the band’s native Vancouver, away even from the northerly gloom of the Seattle studios in which the current album’s most iconic, most epic moments were captured. Perhaps, thanks to certain tracks having been laid down in L.A. instead, a little sunshine has been allowed to creep into the mix, and parts of the album do seem subject to a lessening in expected intensity.

Considering the back catalogue, and with the early energetic exception of the downright chuggingly awesome “Old Fangs”, Wilderness Heart as a whole does seem decidedly less epic than one might expect. Its quieter, mid-section moments show Webber’s influence now has greater reach than just vocals. There’s a subtle creep and mild alt-country quality to them, which fans of the Lightning Dust and Pink Mountaintops projects might recognise. And they aren’t to be underestimated, though, put to the crucible, on a Black Mountain record, the balance doesn’t initially seem quite right between power and restraint.

These initial fears as to the overall quality of Wilderness Heart however are more are less put to bed by rocking extracts like the Sabbath-shredding riff-monster “Let Spirits Ride”, as well as by the enormous title track. Less the shark of the artwork then and more a ringer, Wilderness Heart keeps its cards close to its chest, though it comes as little surprise to find more than a couple of aces up its sleeve.

Advised downloads : “Old Fangs” and “Let Spirits Ride”.

~Wilderness Heart is out the 14th September 2010 on Jagjaguwar .~