Sep 17, 2012
Witch Mountain - "Cauldron of the Wild"...
What struck me a lot in this new album by Portland, Oregon-based Witch Mountain, was not just the “metallic” heaviness of the genuine doomy sound but also, and above all, the incredible seductive charge of the boiling hot blues drenching all molecules of “Cauldron of the Wild”. Playing with witches, wizards, cauldrons, mushrooms, monsters, etc. is good fun for doomsters and alike, especially when it comes to choosing names for bands, albums and tracks. So maybe the shamelessly typical “doomy” choice for names by this band may make us smile. But Witch Mountain’s folks always were and still are very serious in their approach to Doom and in their production of great music which may not bring about any particular innovation, but which is deeply gripping. Actually it is such awesome primitive-sounding Doom …
Witch Mountain was born at the end of the 90s by co-founders Rob Wrong and Nate Carson on vocals/guitars and drums, respectively. The guys were moved by a total devotion to dirty riffs, sabbathian atmospheres and stoner groove. Witch Mountain did contribute to the growth of the US heavy doom scene in those years thanks to their fine early works, demo Homegrown Doom and especially the debut full-length album Come The Mountain (2001), the latter involving bassist Dave Hoopaugh. There the band immediately outlined their powerful and infective style sharing features with bands like Acid King, Yob and alike. Witch Mountain were immediately involved in some intensive live activity between 1997 and 2001 that made them share stage and sweat with an impressive list of big names of the American and international doom-sludge-stoner scene. After some years of hybernation the band came back to life in 2009 with a deep innovation in the line-up, i.e. the involvement of a fourth member, young lady singer Uta Plotkin. This collaboration could not result in a better way than the self-produced album “South of Salem”, recorded in early 2010 and eventually released in 2011.
Well, “South of Salem” was bound to become a bomb made of pitch-dense, raw psychedelic doom drenched with seducing and dirty blues with Uta Plotkin’s amazing, visceral inerpretation. Uta is a pretty young woman with a teenage-like look so much in contrast with her impressive, Janis Joplin-wise retro-blues interpretation, even if Uta’s voice is way more melodic. Personally I am not tremendously fond of melodic female vocals in metal in general, but when it comes to doom/stoner I have to admit that there are great vocalists who are able to bewitch, like deadly luring syrens, instead of turning the doom melodies they interpret into something mawkish. Well after the addition of a new bass player, Neal Munson, the band released the new album Cauldron of the Wild, via Profoud Lore Records, in Spring 2012. Another bomb … The “new” Witch Mountain did it again. They provided the scene with a 45 minutes-long new, roaring vortex of Sabbathian doom and Hendrixian blues vibes. The six full-bodied tracks of the new album wholly develop the rough and passionate style of the band already outlined in the previous album. If possible the band’s style is even more charged in the new album, maybe thanks to the amazing production by Billy Anderson.
The swampy, old-style blues, the “trve” devil’s music is ruling here and is at its maximum potential of seduction. You just have to listen to the opening track, “The Ballad of Lanky Rae”, to be overwhelmed by this boiling hot blues surge. In the new album Luring Witch Uta’s voice is maybe more intense and melodic than ever, but also quite varied. And the energy emanating from Uta’s performance is competing with the dense vibrations from the distorted guitars. Like in the previous album, Uta is occasionally interacting with Rob’s deformed and bleak vocal parts. When this happens, the resulting sick duets are able to poison the melodies, as for example in the beautiful and dark track “Veil of the Forgotten”. In album Cauldron of the Wild there’s still plenty of riffs à-la-Tony Iommi with all their pedigree features (i.e., slow, distorted and sinister), basically the oxygen for all the doom-addicts, as well as contamination from stoner rock.
But you can also appreciate some great epic moments built up by dynamic riff patterns further certifying the substantial technical ability of the band’s guys. For example, listen to the second track “Beekeeper”, or to the final part of the third track “Shelter”. Probably the darkest and most powerful track is the fourth one, “Veil of the Forgotten”, which is built up by an impressive set of riffs.
The band is also able to evoke hypnotic, almost Sleep-like doom atmospheres by further slowing down chanting and by dilating the emission of sounds, which end up vibrating into the silence. Such slowness is perfect for absorbing melodies and single riffs almost physically, as in track “Shelter”, or else for evoking occult or melancholic feelings and atmospheres, as in the long ballad “Aurelia”.
The other long ballad, closing track “Never Know”, is dominated by slowness, by silence and by the languish mood typical of blues, which is evoked by slow vibrating notes and by Uta’s moan and whispers like in a sad lullaby in the long semi-acoustic intro. But after five minutes Witch Mountain’s Doom will explode again and forever, a magmatic surge of doom lead by bass, drums and Uta’s high-pitched invocations, and a long guitar solo by Rob which will make you shiver along to your spine …
An awesome end for a magic album.
Words: Marilena Moroni
Witch Mountain | Profound Lore Records
Tags: Witch Mountain