By Al Kaufman
Seventies’ rock will never die. At least not as long as folks like Stephen McBean are around. McBean has dabbled in everything from folk-rock to noise (with bands Jerk with the Bomb and Pink Mountaintops, respectively), but seems to have found a home with classic rock. Wilderness Heart is the third Black Mountain CD and, although it does not contain the long jams that were prevalent on their In the Future album, it cements their classic rock status.
With its juicy guitar riffs, “The Hair Song” answers the question: What would Led Zeppelin sound like if they had a female lead singer to spar with Robert Plant? Amber Webber’s voice interplays well with McBean’s and keeop the opening cut from becoming just another knock-off song.
“Old Fangs” borrows equally from Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” and the Cars’ “Moving in Stereo,” but also offers a nice eerie organ, courtesy of Jeremy Schmidt. They get a bit mystical on “Buried by the Blues” and “The Space of Your Mind” (“I’m riding the crazy blue waves through the space of your mind.”). And the title track is generic pop metal as Kansas would have done it. You can decide on whether or not that’s a good thing. The speed metal of “Let Spirits Ride” offers up some nice variety, but the real thing that sets Black Mountain apart from other classic rock bands is Webber. When she is not heard, songs, such as “The Way to Gone,” (on which she only offers some background vocal) slog into mediocrity. But when she battles it out with McBean, she adds something special to even the most boring of songs, such as the aforementioned title track. She has a voice that is strong and proud, and could easily make her a third Wilson sister for Heart.
Wilderness War is not as fat as Black Mountain would like it to be, but for those guys who like their flannel and still wear big mustaches and long sideburns, this is good stuff.
Black Mountain play The EARLwith Black Angels on Friday, November 12. 9 pm. SOLD OUT.