A joint tour promoting new albums released on the same date by two psychedelic rock bands whose monikers invoke the same absence of light is quite a string of alignments. Beyond that, however, there is little commonality between the crushing death spiral on the Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream and the wild tangle of classic vibes in Black Mountain’s Wilderness Heart.
Phosphene Dream widens the spectrum of the Angels’ ink-black aperture with ’60s hues like the 13th Floor Elevators inspired warble on “Sunday Afternoon” and the Austin Powers-ready swing of “Telephone.” It’s not completely incense-and-peppermints but there’s definitely more daytripping here. Choice cuts include the Jefferson Airplane-esque “Bad Vibrations,” the carved shakedown of “Haunting at 1300 McKinley,” the nightmarish trance of “River of Blood” and the black-leather bravado of “Entrance Song.”
Not to clip a good band’s wings, but with a signature sound as deadly effective as the Angels’, to deviate from their style is to do so at their own peril. And this album’s critical issue is that their sense of imminent danger – the group’s key, defining aspect – is more latent than looming here. Still, the change is ably handled. The course has shifted but their laser focus remains, keeping them at the head of their class.
Conversely, the expansive and earthy sound of Black Mountain spans seasons. With a heavy, wide-ranging blend of rock, prog, folk and blues, Wilderness Heart is a prismatic roots affair. Fine moments like the swooning boogie of “Old Fangs,” the stoned blues-rock of “Rollercoaster,” the headbanging Ozzy charge of “Let Spirits Ride,” the dusty canyon stomp of “The Way to Gone” and the grinding grooves of “Wilderness Heart” showcase the considerable mileage covered. And although they are more overtly soulful than the Black Angels, they’re also much less concentrated.
They may be on different drugs but together these bands make for a potent trip.
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