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Witch Mountain : Witch Mountain

Portland's Witch Mountain return with a bewitching and explosive new album, brief but nonetheless gorgeous.

Formed in 1997, Witch Mountain descended upon the Doom world from one of its main headquarters: Portland, Oregon, the land of needles, and, well, more needles. Guitarist Rob Wrong, who also plays in The Skull with Eric Wagner of Trouble, and drummer Nathan Carson, who previously played live for Sunnn O))) teamed up to form the band and this self-titled album is their fifth full length. This is the first full-length for the band's new vocalist, as of 2015, Kayla Dixon. She actually brings added accessibility to the band with the swaying, sensuous flavor of her traditional blues-based vocals. At times, one cannot help but think of some of the blues singers that came out of New Orleans, Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and other hubs of talent 40-50 years ago along with an occasional dash of Janis Joplin. This isn't to say that the band is not sufficiently Metal for she adds some shrieks, scream, and growls giving the band a more extreme stance at the appropriate times during the songs. Initially, one who has not heard the band previously may judge them as just another band with "witch" in the title, (I personally have five I've been given to cover this year and can think of several more), but if one considers the 21 years of history the band has, that sentiment would certainly be reversed. As will be covered, the band successfully blends classic Doom with a bit of Extreme Metal thrown in along with bluesy, smooth vocals all with the gleam of high polish and maturity.

'Midnight' begins the affair with a solid groove, one that is impossible to not at least nod one's head to. Having never heard this lineup, it was surprising to hear a female vocalst, Kayla Dixon, and at first, it was difficult to discern whether or not it was a good thing. The verse section has a raunchy blues-based riff over which she adds classic, soulful vocals. When the chorus is reached, though, all doubt has been put to rest for not only does she have some massive pipes, but she can also scream and use techniques employed by Extreme Metal.

The third track, 'Burn You Down,' opens with what sounds like conflicting riffs. In a clever move, it sounds like the guitar is playing ascending notes on a Pentatonic Blues scale while at least, the bass is descending the scale, and possibly another guitar track has been laid down as well. All the while, Kayla Dixon offers harmony, building up to the massive riff that really gets the song going. This riff would have been perfectly at home on 'Master of Reality' or 'Sabotage'. At the 5:20 mark, one cannot help be but floored when hearing the almost-Black Metal-sounding vocals.

Rob Wrong's guitar playing deserves a closer look for it is truly impressive. It is no wonder he got the gig playing in The Skull with Eric Wagner. His tone is full and well-rounded, though sharp and edgy when played fiercely depending upon the mood. It sounds like classic Tony Iommi playing through a modern boutique guitar amp. He certainly has one of the best wah pedal tones out there, a perfect ingredient for the material. It must be mentioned that the bass playing on the album is exceptional as played by Justin Brown, with its powerful low-end and runs as can be heard at the beginning of the last track.

What Witch Mountain have managed to do is create their own niche within the community of the scene. Truly, there is no one else out there sounding quite like this band. Individually, the members are all of stellar caliber. It is the marriage of these talents that truly allows the band to transcend being just another Doom band.

As the album winds down, the vocals take on a mesmerizing effect. One is suddenly met with the feeling of reliving the high points of the 40 minute album in a flashback condensed down to two minutes. Perhaps witchcraft is involved and mixed with a heavy dose of epic riffs and gorgeous vocals, for one certainly does feel spell bound. Nevertheless, the music's spell is one pleasing to the ears as it grips one's emotions with the variety of the music contributed, an ultimate exposition for this explosive band.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


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

Duration : Approx. 34 minutes

Visit the Witch Mountain bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-09-10 by Chris Hawkins
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