“Play those death wish chords!” Most of the time, I have no Earthly idea what the hell Black Mountain are singing about. They’re like old Black Sabbath on white lightning acid. It’s bleak, retrorock, heavy and hard, with lyrics about pain and death and nuclear war and all kinds of things I can’t understand. But I’ve loved this band for years.
On their new release, Wilderness Heart, they continue to morph into a band with range and serious acoustic ability. If you’re looking for more of the same, this is the wrong album for you. But if you’re looking to see a band grow, look here now.
We find more duets, more synthswirls, much more acoustic guitar, a slower pace, and a departure from the slow-build/extended jam songs that marked their first album. Not that they can’t still rock out like that. “Roller Coaster” is of this genre, and it’s just as good as anything they’ve ever done. And it’s the perfect lead-in to the slash and burn motorcycle gang anthem “Let Spirits Ride,” a gimme-Steppenwolf song if I’ve ever heard one. These songs enter in the album’s second half, after a series of interesting, mellow duets over mostly acoustic instruments.
I was concerned for a while that Black Mountain had disbanded, what with lead singer/guitarist Stephen McBean going to do his Pink Mountaintops record and keyboardist/vocalist Amber Webber going on the side with “Lightning Dust,” but this, their third album, put my fears to rest. They’ve clearly gotten inspiration from their side-projects, moving their heavy sound into new areas, and making their most versatile album so far.