If you can answer ‘yes’ to the title of British Sea Power’s 2008 album, ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ then you should know about Black Mountain; the vanguard of the ‘Black Mountain Army’, a collective of Vancouver-based musicians and artists. Black Mountain stand out in the current Canadian crop for being unashamedly guitar-heavy; they like to rock out, and there’s not a violin in sight. One wonders what Win Butler makes of it all.
The band’s third album, Wilderness Heart, picks up well from the critically acclaimed In the Future and displays Black Mountain’s rock influences clearly. At times the record falls back to the 1960s for a prog-rock sound. Take ‘Rollercoaster’, which has a guitar hook and John Bonham-esque drums that could have easily been put out by Led Zeppelin. Other, more modern, rock influences are evident elsewhere. ‘Old Fangs’ is a great track in the mould of the Smashing Pumpkins with a chorus that leaves Stephen McBean and Amber Webber temporarily without guitars, just like a certain Mr. Corgan performs on songs such as ‘Zero’. Throughout, whether to Wolfmother or Deep Purple, Black Mountain bring themselves close to other bands in order to craft another unabashedly ‘rock album’. Need more proof? Have a look at the song titles. If ‘Buried by the Blues’ and ‘Let Spirits Ride’ don’t conjure up images of big hair and bigger guitars then nothing will.
It would be unfair to say though that Wilderness Heart is nothing but an imitation of the heavy rock giants of past and present. Though the L.P does not go anywhere radically new in terms of sound it was clearly not meant to and the touches Black Mountain bring to a crowded genre are welcome. The album is versatile. It swiftly rattles through all the different shades of rock we’ve talked about well and keeps overall coherency. It gets better after a few listens and has some great tracks such as the opener, ‘The Hair Song’; a fun track with a chorus that wants you to join in with it. Wilderness Heart does not quite live up to In the Future however. It lacks the overall creativity of the previous album and it lacks the heavy hitter like ‘Stormy High’ was back in 2008 for the band.
For older fans Wilderness Heart is a good follow-up to In the Future, even if it can’t quite match it. If you like your rock and want something new then the L.P provides an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with a band that are continuing to make something exciting out of a sound that, because of its popularity, often proves resistant to change.