Is there such a thing as post-metal folk rock? Perhaps you like me, dear reader, have also secretly pondered such things. It’s a daring blend of influences, not for the faint of heart, and requiring much skillful musicianship to pull off without sounding like a bunch of tools desperately grasping for scraps of 1970s greatness. Whether it’s thanks to their talent or attitude or both, Black Mountain have successfully created a contemporary synthesis of several genres and sounds that made that decade great. Acoustic guitar and a pairing of Stephen McBean and Amber Webber’s vocals at time sound folky. Burning guitar riffs and dirty fuzz bass add a metal edge. And, everything effuses a postmodern psychedelic aura.
Black Mountain came to my attention a few years ago through McBean’s other aural outlet, Pink Mountaintops. They released their self-titled debut in 2005, and their sophomore effort, In The Future, in 2008. This week they released their third full length, Wilderness Heart, and with it seem to have given more structure and direction to their music. The inchoate experimentation of previous albums has been solidified into tightly orchestrated tracks that hit hard and leave a memorable mark. Since I first heard the single The Hair Song a month ago, I’ve barely been able to go more than a few days without it playing in my brain. Though I thoroughly enjoyed their earlier work, their music has never done that to me before.
There’s a lot to enjoy here. The catchy rock single The Hair Song with its endearingly cinematic music video depicting lovelorn teenage angst. The droning driving refrain of Old Fangs. The deathly sick opening of Rollercoaster and subsequent ride it takes you on, teasing tension with rough breaks followed by Webber’s sultry smooth vocals. Let Spirits Ride is unabashedly a tour de force of gnarly, fast, fun, metal licks. But rather then letting the album drown in heavy distortion, they throw in tracks like Buried By The Blues with gentle harmonies, soul-weary strumming on an acoustic guitar, and a soft dash of tambourine in the background.
Black Mountain serve up a little something for everyone with Wilderness Heart, while maintaining a cohesive signature sound. Due to tight funds I haven’t picked up a copy of this album yet, but it’s certainly at the top of my record store shopping list once bankroll has been obtained. Check out the music video for The Hair Song right here, and then head over to their MySpace to hear Wilderness Heart in its entirety.