Witch Mountain – Witch Mountain Review

Band: Witch Mountain
Album: Witch Mountain
Label: Svart Records
Genre: Doom Metal
Country: USA
Release Date: 25 May, 2018

Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain have returned from a three year hiatus to offer us lovely listeners this massive slab o’ Doom, bringing with it a newer, tougher stance. This is due, in large part, to some lineup shifts, as the band has added singer Kayla Dixon and bass player Justin Brown, both of whom give this release an extra bit of power and tenacity. Dixon’s vocals alone add menace, while at the same time being tender and emotive. Really, she can do whatever she wants, embracing and enhancing the mood of the song. She can spit out grit and she can soar with melody. Brown’s bass playing is deep, low, bottom end stuff that really rumbles the guts. When you add this to the already stellar guitar playing of Rob Wrong and the nifty drumming of Nathan Carson, you’re making a great band even better. Wrong’s guitars are something to behold: grinding, fierce, crushing, and melodic; while Carson’s drumming is powerful and bruising, as well as agile and light. They’ve put together a damned good record here, so let’s jump into the tracks.

Opener “Midnight” reminds me most of old Witch Mountain, making it feel like a transitional track to me, bridging the gap from what came before to what is coming down the road. It’s the warning rumble, the shaking ground of the earthquake just around the bend.

“Mechanical World” is next, all Zeppelin-swagger right out of the gate, stop and start and crushing riffs. Dixon’s vocals really shine here, laying out so much bare emotion, her blues influence seeping into every note. And just when you think it’s going to be one thing, the grind begins, that swirling guitar smashing everything to the ground, almost bringing the song to a lurching halt. But no, it carries on, drunkenly throwing punches at everything that moves. To me, this is the moment on the record where everything comes together and the newer Witch Mountain moves to the front. Grit and power, with lots of melody and soul.

“Burn You Down” is just heavy. There’s really not another word for it, reminding me of the pure heft of Master of Reality Sabbath. Deep, deep bottom end to this one, Dixon’s angelic vocals floating on top of it all, accenting and highlighting the darkness that imbues the music, yet flying forward at times, harsh and gutsy. A short, searing guitar solo in the middle, along with Carson’s almost tribal drumming brings the song back down after it had slowly scaled upwards like a zombie trying to dig its way out of a grave. Carson’s drumming kicks the corpse back into the gaping hole, back down into the earth, growled vocals and bottom end burying the listener. Another sweet solo sings of the end of all things.

Fourth song “Hellfire” is a ballad of sorts, very acoustic, bare, and soul-wrenching. Dixon’s vocals dance between gospel and jazz, with a slight touch of country and folk. This comes at just the right moment, a tender respite in the deluge. Some who are only here for the heavy might not like this, but I sure did. Witch Mountain understand the concept of Light and Shade, just like all the greats do.

Closer “Nighthawk” is a lumbering giant, clocking in at just over 14 minutes. Hypnotic and heavy, bringing us back into the Psycho/Doom world that Witch Mountain are masters of. This one builds slowly, giving itself room to breathe and breed, growing into the behemoth it becomes. Doom be thy name. A perfect summation of what has come before, equal parts growl and melody, and a perfect capper to this record.

Witch Mountain have brought the world another excellent record and, in my estimation, their best yet. The combination of new members and extensive touring have lent this one a familial bent, the band locked in tight with one another, as well as giving them an extra punch and vitality. You can feel them opening themselves a bit more here, both sonically and lyrically, toying with new textures and sounds. This makes for a very exciting future. Witch Mountain have graced us with a Top 10 Album of the Year candidate.

Rating: 8/10

1. Midnight
2. Mechanical World
3. Burn You Down
4. Hellfire
5. Nighthawk

Total Playing Time: 35:09

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