Sometimes all is not as it seems. To wit, Portland doomers Witch Mountain‘s second album, South of Salem. Released on the band’s own Mountastic Records imprint, it followed a full decade after their debut, …Come the Mountain, and genuinely seemed like a restart for the group. But as drummer Nate Carson informs, that’s not really the case. Witch Mountain had been playing shows almost all along, and it was with the addition of vocalist Uta Plotkin to their lineup and the accumulation of funds that they decided once again to enter the studio.
If finding Plotkin was a factor in their finally being able to put South of Salem to tape, it was well worth the wait. Her vocals are both powerful and melodic, adding depth to the songs and playing off the riffs of guitarist Rob Wrong in classic fashion, earning near-ubiquitous comparisons to Heart along the way. Given Witch Mountain‘s embrace of doom’s founding principles — i.e., thou shalt riff — that’s maybe not inaccurate, but let there be no question that what Plotkin brings to South of Salem belongs to Witch Mountain alone.
The album, which was recorded by the venerable Billy Anderson, offers no posturing, no bullshit. Plotkin‘s vocals soar above Wrong‘s chugging riffage, underscored by a heady foundation of groove affected by Carson and bassist Dave Hoopaugh. Right from the beginning of opener “Wing of the Lord” and down through cuts like the growling “End Game” and the 12-minute sprawl of “Hare’s Stare,” South of Salem keeps to a natural, live feel that makes the performances captured that much more striking. Listening, as much ass as Plotkin kicks throughout, I keep going back to Wrong‘s layered solos toward the end of “Hare’s Stare.” Pure Iommic bliss.
I posted South of Salem a while back as an audio stream, and it’s available here if you didn’t get the chance to hear it. In our email exchange, Carson — who also helms Nanotear Booking — discussed making the album, the process of bringing Plotkin into the band, Witch Mountain‘s touring plans, and was kind enough even to turn the keyboard over to Wrong when it came to explaining how their new vocalist has changed the songwriting methodology. For anyone living in the Northwest, Carson also confirmed he’ll be doing another installment of the Fall into Darkness festival (prior years have included the likes of Earthless and Ludicra), although he was tight-lipped when it came to saying who might be in the lineup.
Full Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.