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.

Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Witch Mountain on Bandcamp

Svart Records website

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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
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

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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Ceremony of Sludge VI Lineup Announced: Witch Mountain, Disenchanter, Year of the Cobra, Lamprey and Troll to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It’s been my pleasure to write about the Portland-based festival Ceremony of Sludge in various ways over the years, from posting lineup news as you see below to videos afterwards, to basically just being entranced by Portland’s commitment to supporting its own underground, wishing I could be there, blah blah blah. Lots of the latter, of course. This year’s lineup, for Ceremony of Sludge VI, feels even more special. Witch Mountain are arguably the biggest band to have played the fest, and they’ll headline a no-filler five-band single-night bill with veterans Disenchanter, a Lamprey reunion (!), newcomer doomers Troll, who released their self-titled debut back in October and are waiting to be picked up by this or that label in three, two, one, and Seattle duo Year of the Cobra.

Though they’re playing in the middle of the lineup, I mention Year of the Cobra last to highlight the fact that the two-piece showcase Ceremony of Sludge VI reaching outside the confines of Portland itself, something I can’t say definitively off the top of my head it’s never done before, but which is certainly rarer than not — one of five, in this case. Add to that the fact that the show is a benefit for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood in Portland, and fuck yes, it’s worth supporting. If you happen to live in that corner of the world, attendance is absolutely a no-brainer.

Info follows:

ceremony of sludge vi

Ceremony of Sludge VI Comes to High Water Mark, Portland

CEREMONY OF SLUDGE VI: Benefit For Planned Parenthood and ACLU Of Oregon
MARCH 11th at High Water Mark | Portland, OR
$10 – $20 sliding scale

Portland Heavy Seen, Cravedog,Inc. and Soundcontrol PDX present Ceremony of Sludge VI, to be held March 11th at High Water Mark in Portland, Oregon. This year the annual heavy-music fest is donating 100% of proceeds to local branches of Planned Parenthood and The ACLU of Oregon. The show is 21+ and $10 – $20 (sliding scale) at the door.

Ceremony of Sludge VI lineup:

March 11th
Witch Mountain
Disenchanter
Year Of The Cobra
Lamprey
Troll

Limited edition show posters by Sarah Crosley and merch provided by Cravedog, Inc. will be available for purchase, with all proceeds going into the donation fund.

https://www.facebook.com/ceremonyofsludge
https://www.facebook.com/soundcontrolpdx
http://www.cravedog.com/

Witch Mountain, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, Oct. 7, 2016

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Giveaway: Enter to Win a 3-Day Pass to Northwest Hesh Fest 2016!

Posted in Features on September 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

northwest-hesh-fest-2016-poster

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Sorry, but the lineup here pretty much sells itself. Over three nights, Sept. 22-24, at Dante’s in Portland, Oregon, Northwest Hesh Fest 2016 will host:

Night 1:
Red Fang
American Sharks
Witch Mountain

Night 2:
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
Danava
Banquet

Night 3:
Deafheaven
The Blood Royale
Diesto
Greenbeard

If you enter now by leaving a comment on this post, you can win a three-day pass to see all of the above and get a limited, signed screenprint of the poster shown here, of which only 100 are being made. Obviously, you need to get your ass to Portland — if I could afford to fly you in, I would, believe me — but barring for anyone in that part of the world who’s maybe been on the fence about going or just hasn’t managed to buy tickets yet, yeah, entering seems like it would be kind of a no-brainer. High “duh” factor and whatnot.

For the headliners alone, never mind the chance to see locals like Witch Mountain, Danava and Diesto tear it up alongside imports from Austin, Texas, like American Sharks, The Blood Royale, Banquet and Greenbeard, essentially pairing two of the country’s strongest scenes — Portland and Austin — and topping it not only with the Pacific Northwest’s number one heavy rock export in Red Fang, but bringing up Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on their tour with The Shrine, as well as Deafheaven, who seem to divide opinion everywhere they go while consistently drawing a crowd from both sides of the argument.

Killer lineups, killer shows, free pass and free poster. Like I said, it sells itself. One winner picked a week from today. Thanks to all who enter and to American Icon for letting me host the giveaway.

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

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Northwest Hesh Fest 2016 tickets at Eventbrite

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Northwest Hesh Fest 2016 Announces Lineup with Red Fang, Uncle Acid and Deafheaven Headlining

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on June 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Last year, The Obelisk was proud to be among the presenters for the Northwest Hesh Fest, and it looks like Northwest Hesh Fest 2016 — set for Sept. 22-24 at Dante’s in Portland, Oregon — will be no different. I’ll have a ticket giveaway closer to the event, so keep an eye out for that, and the festival has just unveiled the lineup for each night, and it brings some formidable names.

Headliners are Red FangUncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and Deafheaven, which I think would probably be enough on their own to draw a three-night crowd, but they’re joined by American Sharks, native Portlanders Witch MountainDiesto and Danava, as well as The Blood RoyaleBanquet and Greenbeard.

American SharksGreenbeard and The Blood Royale hail from Austin, Texas, which makes sense as a complement to the Portland acts since American Icon, which puts together the festival, is based there as well. Of the non-headliner acts, that’s as far east as Northwest Hesh Fest 2016 looks, but in bringing aboard UK garage doom forerunners Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, it extends its reach internationally for the first time. That’s a hell of an opening salvo to the rest of the world.

More to come as we get closer to September and the fest itself, but American Icon announced the lineup today and tickets are now on sale both for the individual nights — for which you can see the complete lineup breakdown below — and for a combined three-night pass. I won’t tell you what to do with your time, but this looks like an awful lot of fun:

NORTHWEST HESH FEST 2016

Sept 22-24 @ Dantes in Portland Oregon
RED FANG-UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS-DEAFHEAVEN
American Sharks-Witch Mountain-Danava
The Blood Royale-Diesto-Banquet-Greenbeard

9/22/16
Red Fang, American Sharks, Witch Mountain
http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?eventId=6780785&pl=dante&dispatch=loadSelectionData

9/23/16
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Danava
http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?eventId=6776535&pl=dante&dispatch=loadSelectionData

9/24/16
Deafheaven, The Blood Royale, Greenbeard, Diesto, Banquet
http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?eventId=6780605&pl=dante&dispatch=loadSelectionData

Northwest Hesh Fest Three-Day Pass

Northwest Hesh Fest event page

Northwest Hesh Fest on Thee Facebooks

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Saint Vitus, The Skull and Witch Mountain Announce US Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

This is one of those tour-to-end-all-tours tours. Beginning in Austin on Sept. 27, including a stop Oct. 14 at Erosion Fest and culminating Oct. 23 at Southwest Terror Fest, the newly-announced tour with Saint VitusThe Skull and Witch Mountain also covers both coasts in nearly its month-long stretch. I’ll admit the prospect of seeing these three bands together at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn has my arm hair standing on end, remembering the Vitus-at-Vitus gig from 2012 (review here) as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, at that venue or anywhere else. It’ll be a different lineup of the band this time, with original vocalist Scott Reagers back in that position as the Die Healing-referential poster art indicates, but they’re keeping excellent company in The Skull and Witch Mountain as well, so kudos all around, including to Nanotear, which put the package together.

Witch Mountain have a couple dates as well en route to meeting up with the others. Find the complete routing, including those shows, below:

saint vitus the skull witch mountain tour

SAINT VITUS tour dates
All dates with THE SKULL, WITCH MOUNTAIN
Sept. 27 Austin, TX @ Midway Field House
Sept. 28 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Dallas
Sept. 29 San Antonio, TX @ The Mix
Sept. 30 Shreveport, LA @ Riverside Warehouse
Oct. 1 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s Saloon
Oct. 2 Atlanta, GA @ The EARL
Oct. 3 Raleigh, NC @ Kings
Oct. 5 Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
Oct. 6 Boston, MA @ @Middle East
Oct. 7 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
Oct. 8 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
Oct. 9 Indianapolis, IN @ 5th Quarter Lounge
Oct. 10 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Bar
Oct. 11 Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
Oct. 12 St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
Oct. 14 Missoula, MT @ Erosion Festival
Oct. 15 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
Oct. 16 Portland, OR @ Star Theater Portland
Oct. 18 Sacramento, CA @ Starlite Lounge
Oct. 19 Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro Operahouse
Oct. 20 Costa Mesa, CA @ Wayfarer.
Oct. 21 Los Angeles, CA @ The Viper Room
Oct. 22 San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
Oct. 23 Tucson, AZ @ Southwest Terror Fest

Witch Mountain shows on the way to meet up with Saint Vitus + The Skull:
9/22 Portland, OR – Dante’s (WM only)
9/23 Boise, ID – Neurolux (WM only)
9/24 Salt Lake City, UT – Metro (WM only)
9/25 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive (WM only)

https://www.facebook.com/saintvitusofficial/
https://www.facebook.com/troubletheskull/
https://www.facebook.com/witchmountain/
https://www.facebook.com/Nanotear/
http://season-of-mist.com/
teepeerecords.com/products/

Saint Vitus, “Born too Late” Live at Hellfest 2015

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The Skull and Witch Mountain Announce European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Have to chuckle a bit at The Skull calling a tour ‘November of Doom,’ when they’re from Chicago and that same city is host to Novembers Doom, but hey, sometimes coincidences happen. On their latest run of Europe, which follows two earlier this Spring, including one that stopped for a total of three sets at Roadburn 2016, they’ll be joined by Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain. As coordination would have it, the two bands share a guitarist in Rob Wrong at this point, so though he’ll be pulling double-duty, the pairing makes an awful lot of sense. The Skull, who are continuing to support their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), as well as a self-titled follow-up EP (review here), features vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner, guitarist Lothar Keller and drummer Sean Saley, in addition to Rob Wrong.

To my recollection, this is the first time Witch Mountain will be headed to Europe since acquiring vocalist Kayla Dixon. They toured North America last Spring alongside Enslaved and YOB and are about due for a follow-up to 2014’s Mobile of Angels (review here), their gorgeous and fraught fourth full-length.

Both bands also play Erosion Festival 2016 (info here) in Missoula, Montana, this October.

From the PR wire:

the skull witch mountain

THE SKULL featuring former Trouble members including vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner are returning to Europe in November 2016!

The Skull & Witch Mountain:
11/04 Bristol, UK Exchange
11/05 Milton Keynes, UK Crauford Arms
11/06 London, UK Underworld
11/07 Tilburg, NL Little Devil
11/08 Utrecht, NL DBS
11/09 Karlsruhe, DE Jubez
11/10 Vienna, AT Doom Over Vienna
11/11 Arnstadt, DE Rockjunfer
11/12 TBA
11/13 Drachten, NL Iduna
11/14 Wiesbaden, DE Schlachthof
11/15 Kassel, DE Schlachthof
11/16 Hamburg, DE Hafenklang
11/17 Dortmund, DE Piano
11/18 Würzburg, DE Hammer Of Doom
11/19 Winterthur, CH Gaswerk

https://www.facebook.com/troubletheskull
http://theskullusa.com/
https://twitter.com/TheSkullUSA
http://shop.teepeerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/witchmountain/
http://witchmountain.bandcamp.com/

The Skull, Live at Roadburn 2016

Witch Mountain, Live at King’s Barcade, Raleigh, NC, March 26, 2015

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