Friday, June 22, 2012

Witch Mountain Brings Cauldron To Boil

When Portland-based Witch Mountain decided to stay closer to home in 2003, some suspected it might be a permanent hiatus beyond occasional sporadic gigs in the Northwest and occasional reunion shows. But that all changed in 2009 when songwriter/guitarist Rob Wrong (M99, Iomni Stubbs) met Uta Plotkin (Aranya, Stalking Jane).

Plotkin, who grew up in drummer Nathan Carson's hometown in Corvallis, Ore., made an instant connection with Wrong and the rest of the band. Her blues-infused, smoky vocals are proof that not only can a female vocalist sing doom metal but she can own it. Her range alone can hypnotize any bong-drenched souls as she belts out Wrong's otherworldly lyrics.

Plotkin also freed up Wrong's duties as the frontman of a three piece, giving him much more levity to layer the music and expand his own proficiencies as a guitarist. More guitar also means more bass from newcomer Neal Munson (Hauskness).

Cauldron Of The Wild carries on what South Of Salem started. 

Almost immediately after recording their sophomore album South Of Salem in 2010 and touring most of 2011, Witch Mountain wasted no time before heading back into the studio. They had every reason to keep producing after NPR named South Of Salem the fourth best metal album of the year.

Cauldron Of The Wild stands to make a lasting impression too. It's clear Wrong wrote the bulk of the material to showcase Plotkin as well as some grainy guitar solos packed with six songs that range from five minutes to almost 12. The ambiance, atmosphere, and approach lends itself to its timelessness.

It's clear that the band has more to sing about than dark tales of the occult, despite being classified as doom metal. The opening track, The Ballad Of Lanky Rae, is about a dangerously awkward and formidable female marksman.

The entire song chugs along, alternating among stellar guitar work, spoken lyrics and wails. It is slow as an opener, but anyone listening to metal will immediately recognize that Witch Mountain is nonstandard. The primal nature of Beekeeper pounds on the point as atmospheric and it is emotional.

Veil Of The Forgotten, which originally appeared on a complication about the same time their sophomore album came out, has always been inexplicably haunting in a tale designed to keep you up at night. The tour de force, however, is Aurelia, the near 12-minute epic unraveling as Plotkin throws down some splintering and addictive riffs. As a slow burner, it doesn't get much better.

Shelter shatters any distance between blues and metal because Witch Mountain mixes them together like a swampy, heavy elixir. Plotkin's sad and solemn voice is a perfect contrast to the constant steady deepness of the foundation and some of the biggest instrumental runs on the album.

The album winds down with Never Know, a sleeper in that the meat of the song comes in toward the end. It is brilliant in the way it lulls before unleashing an intensity that is difficult to forget. But there is no spoiler in mentioning it. Even after several passes, the song will constantly catch you off kilter.

Cauldron Of The Wild Boils At 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Witch Mountain may have begun as a threesome in the 90s with an explosive album release in the United Kingdom, but they've been resurrected into something new as a quartet with three seasoned musicians and a vocalist with the paradox of a young, passionate voice singing weathered lyrics that spill out like dark and timeless fairytales. Everything about the album is oppressive in its presentation, even as it teases you into a tranquil sway.

Cauldron Of The Wild by Witch Mountain is available on iTunes and you can order the CD from Barnes & Noble. Cauldron of the Wild is also available on Amazon. Digital downloads require an album purchase to include Aurelia, but it's worth it. Currently, Witch Mountain is embarking on its first U.S. tour. You can keep up with show dates on Facebook.
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