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Wilderness Heart
Black Mountain Wilderness Heart
Released 10 September 2010
Producer Black Mountain
Label Jagjaguwar
Length 42:54
Genre Indie, psychedelic rock
Website myspace.com/blackmountain

Psychedelic heavy metal with folk leanings might sound like an odd combination but it’s a sound that has served Black Mountain well. Their second album, In The Future, received near universal critical acclaim upon its release in 2008, with grand statements made about the knowing nods and winks to bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. The standard has now been set and Wilderness Heart faces a tough task to match its predecessor.

The album begins with 'The Hair Song', a fitting introduction that showcases the vocal abilities of lead singers Stephen McBean and Amber Webber. There’s a nice interplay here that repeats throughout the album; lyrics being bounced back and forth followed by some impressive harmonies. The acoustic guitars and synth wood wind and strings set an easy listening folk vibe that is forgotten as soon as the chugging guitars and psychedelic keyboards of 'Old Fangs' kick in. The change in tone is striking, one that brought to mind the first time I heard Queens of The Stone Age’s Rated R, where each song seemed to be played by a different band.

Yet again the tone switches with 'Radiant Hearts', an acoustic guitar driven folk song with apocalyptic overtones that shows that Black Mountain can do the simple things well. Things take a bit of a dip with 'Rollercoaster', a sprawling, distorted guitar and drum heavy number that feels a bit repetitive and uninspired, though slightly redeems itself with some crunching guitar parts. 'Let Spirits Ride' sees Black mountain slip into Black Sabbath mode, with a fast paced yet simple guitar riff similar to 'Paranoid' with McBean doing his best Ozzy impression to mark the end of the first half of the album, so far so good.

The second half contains three slow paced folk ballads; 'Buried By The Blues', 'The Space Of Your Mind' and 'Sadie'. All three songs are pleasant and again show that Black Mountain aren’t over reliant on a heavy sound, but perhaps three is overdoing it. The early energy gives way to a more laid back mood, broken up momentarily by the grungy 'The Way To Gone' and the psychedelic heavy metal of the title track, but ultimately the momentum is taken out of the album.

While Wilderness Heart doesn’t quite live up to In The Future it is still an impressive album with the considerable talent of Black Mountain shining through. The low points on the album won’t necessarily have you skipping to the next track but you might wish the album had been structured better to keep the energy flowing.

- Brian Kinsella