Review Summary: Witch Mountain deliver staggeringly haunting doom metal that's firmly rooted in traditional blues.
Out of all subgenres of metal, traditional doom is the one which most often resorts to profound, entirely tangible emotions. Whether it's retrospective melancholia of Warning's Watching From A Distance
or spiritual voyeurism of Yob's Atma
, the best doom metal albums of the last several years have boasted enough emotional authenticity to make them stand out among many impressively technical, yet soulless metal releases. The third disc of Portland's Witch Mountain is one of these rare albums in the genre that encompass a great deal of musical sensitivity and heart. Following on self-released South Of Salem
which garnered a multitude of favourable reviews last year, Cauldron Of The Wild
capitalizes on the quartet's blues-ingrained brand of doom metal. While the majority of similar acts largely focuses on overbearing, often monotonous heaviness, Witch Mountain distinguish themselves by implementing permeating groove of Mississippi Delta blues into their style.
The comparisons to Black Sabbath's proto-metal are indispensable on the grounds of robust arrangements alone. Rob Wrong is an extraordinary guitarist who finds an ideal tone which constantly oscillates between ominously filthy riffs of sludge metal and enchantingly dissonant, expressive solos being reminiscent of Jimmy Hendrix himself. Wrong's guitar play is built upon Nathan Carson's lumbering drum fills and Neal Munson's ponderous bass lines, which makes for thunderous, yet discordant sound. On top of that, amazing Uta Plotkin delivers decidedly soulful vocals that bring a new layer to all six songs. It's the first time she has contributed lyrics and vocal melodies and thus her distinct personality leaves its stamp on the entire record. Opener “Lanky Rae” is a psychedelic blues jam that references old murder ballads, whereas “Beekeeper” is way more enigmatic in its atmosphere showcasing a dazzling performance of Plotkin who runs the gamut of emotions contrasting high-pitched with raspy vocals to powerful effect.
Another feature that differentiates Witch Mountain from their doom metal contemporaries is an inclination towards transition-based song craft. Every track on Cauldron Of The Wild
has its distinctive nature effectively sporting numerous shifts in both mood and tempo. For instance, a claustrophobic, roaring guitar onslaught of “Shelter” builds to galloping heavy metal accented by solemn vocals. The most epic songs are placed at the end of the disc though. “Aurelia” is a tour de force of progressive doom metal expertly unravelling from a quiet Americana-echoing verse to precisely timed, grandiose riff bursts. The song's oppressive tone is intensified by Plotkin's poignant lyrics only to be finalized by Wrong's uplifting guitar riffs. Closer “Never Know” is equally good, yet this time that hushed blues groove explodes in the middle of the song leading to the record's defining moment that simply defies expectations.
With its remarkable blues undertones, top-notch songwriting and Uta Plotkin emerging as a truly unique voice in music, Cauldron Of The Wild
ranks among the most haunting doom metal albums ever released. It's an impeccable amalgamation of ferocity, darkness and soul that may very well be impossible to surpass this year.