It’s been a while since Witch Mountain parted ways with Uta Plotkin, the amazingly rangy singer who first blew my mind on 2011’s South of Salem. But their next two albums were subsequently less heavy, before creative differences led to the search for a new frontwoman. And while it didn’t take long for the band to welcome Kayla Dixon into the fold, we’ve all been waiting a while—over three years—for their first post-Plotkin release.
Now, I did get a chance to see this lineup live in late 2016, opening for Saint Vitus, and I was pretty impressed with a set consisting mostly of new material. So I’ve had some pretty high hopes for this one before I even pressed play. Can they rise to the occasion?
Witch Mountain s/t is almost an EP, with five songs in just over 36 minutes—and it ends on a 14-minute epic track. “Midnight” kicks things off with a heavy, gurgling, downtuned doom riff, before the vocals come in, just as stirring as before, hitting some of the same notes, but with maybe a bit more bite. The more vicious vocal approach suits the heavy riffs quite nicely. “Mechanical World” combines a stop-start riff with a soaring vocal, before throwing in a bluesy doom breakdown around the 1:30 mark. From there the song gets slower, while maintaining the same jagged approach until it devolves into a melodic vocal line backed by a military-style snare around the three-minute mark. This is definitely not Doom-by-Numbers!
At nearly eight minutes, “Burn You Down” takes on some more typical doomy tempos, although the soulful vocals are definitely a distinguishing factor. I do like the more mid-paced riff that kicks in at the start of the chorus, giving off a Gates of Slumber vibe, and the death-metal vocals that kick in past the five-minute mark signal a more grittier direction. From there, they go full vintage soul on “Hellfire,” a two-and-a-half-minute interlude that leads us to the grand finale.
The 14:40 anthem “Nighthawk” actually opens with a bass solo, before it’s joined by a screaming guitar. The banana-slug tempos of this number might be the most reminiscent of their 2011 come-out-of-nowhere comeback effort, albeit with a softer touch and a bluesier vibe, and a bit of a blackened metal passage just shy of the 12-minute mark. I don’t think they’ve ever gone on this long before, either.
This album is definitely different than their previous material. It’s heavier in spots, but also a little more eccentric. It’s certainly not a return to South of Salem, but I can still dig it.