Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain: Burning and Rebuilding

Posted in Reviews on May 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain

Let’s be honest: Losing a singer like the singer Witch Mountain lost is a worse fate than a band should have to endure. In 2014, following three each-better-than-the-last records in 2011’s South of Salem (review here), 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and 2014’s gorgeous and sad Mobile of Angels (review here), frontwoman Uta Plotkin left the Portland, Oregon, doomers, and for a minute there, it looked like it might be the end. At least from the outside. But Witch Mountain existed before Plotkin — founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson released the band’s debut, Come the Mountain (discussed here), in 2001 — and it would continue to exist after.

In a matter of months, the band was reformed in early 2015 with Wrong (who now also plays in The Skull), Carson, bassist Justin Brown (formerly of underrated trio Lamprey) and new vocalist Kayla Dixon, a transplant from Ohio with a background in the more straightforward metal outfit Demons Within, but whose voice was powerful enough to make one believe in fate. Tours with EnslavedThe SkullSaint Vitus and others followed, and in releasing their fifth album overall, first with the new lineup and first on Svart in North America as well as Europe, Witch Mountain‘s naming their latest LP Witch Mountain feels like a declaration in and of itself.

Or perhaps a victory lap, because what they came through and the manner in which they did is not to be understated. And the five-track/35-minute collection that’s resulted from three years of work on stage and an obviously thoughtful songwriting process is less about meeting the expectations of their audience than about making a definitive statement of who they are. Witch Mountain‘s Witch Mountain did not happen by accident.

From the first slogging riff and on-the-bell ride hits of opener “Midnight,” that’s readily apparent, and Dixon is about two lines into the first verse before she gives a first glimpse at the throat-ripper of a scream that seems a constant threat to be unleashed amidst her soulful melodic delivery. As a showcase of range and arrangement for her, the opener also boasts a choice solo from Wrong and gives Brown a chance to establish himself as indispensable on the low end. Witch Mountain has been through a succession of bassists but as the march of “Midnight” slams to starts and stops under Dixon‘s soaring voice, he proves an excellent fit with Wrong and Carson, and when they roll into a scream-laced hook in the second half of the track, the bass is all the more essential in setting the groundwork for that turn and the shift into the memorable Spirit cover “Mechanical World.”

The bluesy lyrics and vibe are an excellent fit for Witch Mountain‘s style of doom, Wrong adding subtle flourish around the central riff as Dixon again showcases her breadth as a vocalist, the song moving into manic thrust from its verse just for a minute before running into an even slower, minimal stretch of open, vocal-led atmospherics. If one thinks of “Midnight” as an introductory statement, and “Mechanical World” as helping to set the tone and range for the album as a whole, then the seven-minute side A closer “Burn You Down” is where Witch Mountain really seem to dig into the proceedings.

witch mountain photo whitey mcconnaughy

Dixon is nigh-omnipresent save for solo spots but not overbearing in the mix, and the drums and bass behind do well in setting up a build just past the midpoint where layers of backing choral vocals push her forward to set up a section of vitriolic screams and growls and spiteful lyrics. Wrong likewise tears into another echoing solo as Brown and Carson plod away behind, and “Burn You Down” lumbers to its finish and comes apart to silence at the close of the record’s first half.

As much as the narrative of Witch Mountain is invariably going to be based around the band pressing forward after what would have been the undoing of many acts — and not unreasonably so; that’s the story here and not a minor accomplishment — the truth is that happened three years ago and what’s even more striking is the movement and command within these songs. “Burn You Down,” inarguably the angriest track on the record, still keeps its sense of control as it shifts from one part to the next, and its motion is consuming.

There’s less time for swapping out vibes, but 2:23 acoustic-based side B opener “Hellfire” finds Dixon backed by a simple guitar line and cymbal washes, some piano, as she becomes an entire gospel choir and backs her own central lyric with professional-level ease. There’s a pause as if to say, “Okay, you just let that sink in,” and then the far-back guitar of howl of 14-minute closer “Nighthawk” arrives, complemented by a drum build and bass rhythm that slams into the fullness of its slow push. The band trades back and forth in volume and Dixon drawls out early verses and at the three-minute mark gorgeously matches notes with the start of a short solo from Wrong before the next verse.

A linear build is underway subtly, and the Dixon choral layers reemerge as the band approaches five-minutes in and pick up the tempo ahead of another open stretch and highlight vocal performance, self-harmonies and all. At about 8:20, the guitar takes the fore again and leads the transition into a section of tom fills, chugging riffs and growls and screams working in unison. There’s a break from the onslaught about two minutes later as the guitar seems to nod at fellow Oregonians and former tourmates YOB, but the churn fades back in and soon enough they’re back to destruction-mode. The final break is just after 12 minutes in and sets up a crescendo of spoken and sung vocals, full-on riffing and dirge march behind until the last wash of cymbal and fading feedback signals the end.

I’ve said as much before, but it bears repeating: They did it. They pulled it off. There’s no question in listening to Witch Mountain‘s Witch Mountain that the band is aware of who they are and what they want to be, but as much as one might argue the album is a reset, it’s not at all a step backward. They’ve set themselves on a new course that holds over elements of who they were before and will allow them to continue to progress as an outfit, and while for sure there will be some who doubt, once or twice through the album is enough to vaporize any question whatsoever. The statement is made. This is Witch Mountain. Long live.

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Witch Mountain Announce Headlining Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

You know what the thing about the new Witch Mountain record is? They pulled it off. They did. Somewhere along the way, maybe you doubted they’d do it, but they did it. Some bands switch singers and you hardly notice. Witch Mountain had the task before them of replacing one of the most unmistakable voices in metal — period — and they not only found someone who could carry the old material, but who could put her own stamp on the new. They absolutely, one hundred percent, pulled it off. If you don’t think so, you’re pretty much in denial.

And there. That’s basically the spoiler for my review, which I’ll hope to have up sometime before their self-titled releases on May 25 but which, at the rate I’m going, probably won’t actually be up until July. Because it’s like that over here these days.

Headlining tour announced. Shows presented of course by Nanotear. Info, naturally off the PR wire:

witch mountain tour

WITCH MOUNTAIN ANNOUNCE NORTH AMERICAN SUMMER TOUR; FIRST HEADLINING RUN SINCE 2012

WITCH MOUNTAIN ARRIVES MAY 25 VIA SVART

Witch Mountain, who recently announced the May 25 release of their self-titled album via Svart, have confirmed a month-long tour of North America, kicking off on July 11 in Sacramento.

“Since Justin and Kayla joined, we’ve had the amazing fortune to tour with YOB, Danzig, and Saint Vitus… Time flies, and we realized that Witch Mountain hasn’t headlined North America since 2012. Can’t wait to be back out on the road for a summertime adventure, seeing our fans, and sharing our new music with them,” said founding member/drummer Nathan Carson. Bass player Justin Brown and singer Kayla Dixon joined Carson and guitar player Rob Wrong following the release of the critically acclaimed album, Mobile of Angels.

Witch Mountain pre-orders will be announced soon. Listen to “Burn You Down,” from the forthcoming album, here: https://witchmountain.bandcamp.com/album/burn-you-down.

Witch Mountain tour dates:
May 31 Seattle, WA North West Terror Fest
June 23 Portland, OR Star Theater #
July 11 Sacramento, CA Blue Lamp
July 12 San Francisco, CA Bottom of the Hill
July 13 San Diego, CA Til Two
July 14 Los Angles, CA Lexington
July 15 Phoenix, AZ Club Red
July 16 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad
July 18 Austin, TX Lost Well
July 19 Denton, TX Dan’s Silverleaf
July 20 Memphis, TN HiTone
July 21 Knoxville, TN Pilot Light
July 22 Atlanta, GA The Earl
July 23 Asheville, NC Mothlight
July 25 Chapel Hill, NC Cat’s Cradle
July 26 Richmond, VA Strange Matter
July 27 Baltimore, MD Metro
July 28 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie
July 29 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus
July 31 Boston, MA Great Scott
August 1 Portland, ME Geno’s
August 2 Montreal, QC Vitrola
August 3 Ottawa, ON House of Targ
August 4 Toronto, ON Garrison
August 5 Buffalo, NY Mohawk
August 7 Lexington, KY Cosmic Charlie’s
August 8 Chicago, IL Reggie’s
August 9 Omaha, NE Lookout Lounge
August 10 Denver, CO Hi-Dive
August 11 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge

# – Will Haven, Atriarch and Worm Ouroboros open (Record release show)

www.facebook.com/witchmountain
http://witchmountain.bandcamp.com
www.svartrecords.com
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Witch Mountain, “Burn You Down”

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Witch Mountain Self-Titled LP Due May 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

witch mountain photo whitey mcconnaughy

Call me crazy if you want — you’d have ample evidence to back you up, to be sure — but I think Witch Mountain are going to surprise a lot of people with this record. Hell, I saw the band with Uta Plotkin. I heard the utter mournful brilliance and emotional claustrophobia that was so resonant in 2014’s Mobile of Angels (review here). I know what they’re up against in getting new vocalist Kayla Dixon to take on that lead singer role. But you know, I’ve seen them with Dixon up front too. And I’ve listened to “Burn You Down,” which is the centerpiece of their new self-titled-as-a-statement self-titled LP — out May 25 on Svart Records — and if you’ve been saying to yourself there’s no way the band can pull it off without Plotkin, the arguments otherwise are quickly mounting.

Bottom line? Founding drummer Nathan Carson (also of Nanotear Booking) and founding guitarist Rob Wrong (now also of The Skull) aren’t dummies. By bringing in bassist Justin Brown (ex-Lamprey) and Dixon in 2015 and waiting until now to put a new album out, they’ve essentially given themselves the time to let Witch Mountain find its new shape, new personality as a group, and new confidence to move forward. Like I said, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by just how well they’ve done all of those things with this record.

From the PR wire:

Witch Mountain Witch Mountain

WITCH MOUNTAIN RELEASE SELF-TITLED ALBUM ON MAY 25 VIA SVART RECORDS

NEW RELEASE IS THE FIRST TO FEATURE SINGER KAYLA DIXON

Witch Mountain return from their three-plus-year hiatus with a refreshed line-up (new singer Kayla Dixon and bass player Justin Brown join band stalwarts Rob Wong and Nate Carson) and a new album: Witch Mountain (May 25, Svart Records).

“We’ve always been a patient band,” said founding member/drummer Nathan Carson. “Thanks to all of the touring Rob and I have done with Justin and Kayla over the last three years, we were able to make this album as a full-fledged, road-tested, family unit. Over twenty years, Witch Mountain has never peaked; each record and tour are better than the last. It was a tiny scene when we started, and even though it’s incredibly saturated now, [our] own unique twist on Northwestern doom has continued to set us apart. I can’t wait to share the latest and greatest album with our fans.”

Witch Mountain tracklist:
Midnight
Mechanical World
Burn You Down
Hellfire
Nighthawk

Witch Mountain pre-orders and the band’s North American tour dates will be announced soon

www.facebook.com/witchmountain
http://witchmountain.bandcamp.com
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Witch Mountain, “Burn You Down”

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