It would not be an exaggeration to state that Portland, Oregon based Witch Mountain are stalwarts of doom metal in the 21st century. Since their 1997 inception, through immaculate studio releases and stunning live performances, this band has gone on to become a much loved entity among fans of the genre. In 2014, Witch Mountain underwent a major lineup change, with vocalist Uta Plotkin amicably departing the group. Most fans could not even have imagined a Witch Mountain without Plotkin at the forefront, such was her magical impact on everyone who listened to the albums and witnessed the band perform live. But, drummer Nathan Carson and guitarist Rob Wrong were always the creative core of this group from the time they co-founded it, and they had no intention of letting fans of the band and genre down. Just when you thought Witch Mountain’s career was possibly over, that they could not live up to their own reputation, enter Kayla Dixon. The band continued playing shows with the new frontwoman, and she captivated audiences with her unparalleled exhibits as a performer and singer. A studio album with Dixon on vocals has been an eagerly awaited one, and the time has finally come. Witch Mountain’s fifth full-length, a self-titled effort, is ready for release.
Unlike in some cases of a singer switch, Witch Mountain made a smart move by letting audiences experience the new incarnation of the band on stage first, giving everyone plenty of time to witness the new singer firsthand. This consequently heightened the hype and eagerness for the new album, but also raised expectations. It is extremely pleasing to report that the Witch Mountain self-titled album delivers on all fronts, well worth the wait and then some.
The album cover is very much quintessential to what the band stands for sonically and aesthetically, perhaps even more so than any of the cover artwork that graced past albums. It is the shortest album the band will have released till date, clocking in a mere 35 minutes. They took 4 years to create and complete this one, but have clearly bettered themselves at putting their point across more precisely than they ever have, and it is safe to say that their patience and deliberation has not gone to waste. At the same time, this album also offers the longest Witch Mountain track till date, ‘Nighthawk’, a little over 14 minutes long. So, the band brilliantly succeeds in combining the best of both worlds on this one, the concise creative expression, and the long, gradually building epic composition style that doom fans love so much.
It is worth mentioning that the band lineup now includes Justin Brown as the bassist, who entered the fold in 2015. But the big question on Witch Mountain fans’ mind would have been, of course, about the vocal delivery on the album. Having seen the band live, it is quite intriguing to note that the dynamic range of Kayla Dixon’s incredible vocal abilities has been captured excellently throughout this album, but like a true artist, she certainly showcases her talent in moulding herself to what is required of her in keeping the Witch Mountain signature sound intact. On stage, she undoubtedly expresses herself fully to show how vastly different she is to Uta Plotkin as a performer, but on this studio recording, she adapts beautifully to let the music dictate her singing and not the other way round. Plus, you obviously have the expert songwriting of Nathan Carson and Rob Wrong lending continuity to the band’s previous efforts. They are true masters of doom, and with more ears on them than ever before, they have laid down some of their finest work.
It would be unfair to compare the two singers at this point, and may be it would be fair to do so when the band completes the same number of albums with Kayla Dixon as they did with Uta Plotkin. The history of the music world tells us that singer switches can make or break the band and can shift the entire identity and existence of a band beyond recognition. Thankfully, that is not the case with Witch Mountain. They have retained all that they’ve been known and loved for over the years. They have simply created a product that is better overall than their last released one, as has been the trend they have established throughout their career, moving from one album to the next.
There are no superlative or weak tracks to point out, and the entirety of the album flows as a singular, unified piece of unbridled heaviness and enchanting melody. Fans of the band will definitely find tremendous enjoyment in listening to this one on repeat, and those still unfamiliar with the band could treat this as a great entry point, specially with this one having been recorded by the current lineup. It was clearly not a matter of coincidence that the album is self-titled, and a very well thought-out decision instead. This is Witch Mountain as it stands currently, but also a Witch Mountain that honors the identity and history it has built for itself over the past twenty years.
Pack your bongs, give Witch Mountain’s self-titled album a spin, and find yourself in an otherworldly mental state. The frontrunner for the doom metal album of year 2018 beckons you.
– by Andrew Bansal
Record Label: Svart
Release Date: May 25 2018
1. Midnight (4:54)
2. Mechanical World (5:48)
3. Burn You Down (7:40)
4. Hellfire (2:30)
5. Nighthawk (14:17)
Total Duration: 35:09