I was expecting a so-so album of stoner grooves, wailing vocals, and intermittent folk, given the 30-second samples. The fragmentary nature of the songs when heard in bits resolves itself into a return to the album-oriented format of the 70s, when you might pick up a "rock" album to find a rich variety of styles from cut to cut, yet a sequencing that unfolded logically to build a momentum that rose and fell throughout the 40 minutes.
Black Mountain has done this. I don't hear the Sabbath tones others have. It reminds me rather of the eclectic hard rock of the 1970s. While the opening tracks reminded me of Beefheart and Pere Ubu, the album settles into more Crazy Horse territory for much of the length. Neu!, Buffalo Springfield, and the Byrds surface, and early Pink Floyd can be heard later on; the mix of these disparate influences makes for a lovely, unsettling, and restless ambiance. The female vocals appeal far more than the only serviceable male vocals (of the bandleader, of course), however, and this limits the range that this album could have more fully reached. Heart of Snow best shows the harmonious side of the ensemble, and Druganaut their more swaggering manner.
The album works as a succession of moods, and the intelligent if not quite exciting experimentation finds a suitably retro-ish production to match. A problem might be that this is an ensemble more than a fully-fledged band, and the album suffers a bit from a narrower vision of its leader. I believe that if Black Mountain continues, that they will surpass this promising first effort with an amazing follow-up, one or two albums down the line. All of the influences are well-chosen, and the band should integrate them further into their own Northwest blend smoothly.