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Black Mountain's third disc more concise

TORONTO - It seems a trip to the "Wilderness" actually smoothed some of Black Mountain's rough edges.

TORONTO - It seems a trip to the "Wilderness" actually smoothed some of Black Mountain's rough edges.

The Vancouver band is often associated with the spiralling, stoned-out epics of its first two records — both of which contained songs that unfurled past the 10-minute mark. So the concise, structured pop tunes of their new LP, "Wilderness Heart," might surprise some.

"We just wanted to try something new," said vocalist Amber Webber during a recent stop in Toronto.

"The songs are tighter, to-the-point sort of songs. We came into it somewhat naturally."

In fact, the band enlisted the help of a producer — two, in fact — for the first time on "Wilderness Heart," due out Tuesday. Three tracks were recorded in Seattle with Randall Dunn, who has worked with Sunn O))), and four were helmed in Los Angeles by Dave Sardy, who has teamed up with the likes of Oasis and Wolfmother

They helped draw the band into a different direction.

"He likes to trim the fat," keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt said of Sardy. "He's a Beatles fanatic."

Yet the move toward stripped-down song structures hasn't much changed the band's critic-approved formula.

"Wilderness Hearts" finds the band again juggling chugging, Sabbath-scented hard-psych and druggy folk, with mythology-infused lyrics reminiscent of Rush.

"I think if it wasn't pulling in more than one direction, we'd just get bored with being dragged off in one direction," Schmidt said.

"I'm as interested in making something heavy as I am something that's the opposite of that."

First single "Old Fangs" hums on a rock-solid groove that calls to mind Queens of the Stone Age, while the languid lag of "Rollercoaster" is intermittently interrupted by titanic guitars.

On the softer side, the foreboding "Radiant Hearts" carries a whiff of Jefferson Airplane while the swaying "The Space of Your Mind" is only one example of the band's further explorations in vocal harmony.

Indeed, Wells and lead vocalist Stephen McBean have never worked together as seamlessly as they do here, with Wells wresting a bigger role on this album than ever before.

The reason for that was as much pragmatic as artistic.

"I put some more effort into writing more vocal harmonies, just because I knew we'd be touring for two years, so (I) might as well sing a bunch," Wells said, before shrugging and offering a slight smile.

"Like honestly, that's what I thought.

"I felt the challenge for me was writing harmonies and trying to make parts for myself without taking over the song, you know? To do the best thing for the song but also challenge myself doing that."

 
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