Friday, October 19, 2012

Witch Mountain - Witch Mountain (EP) (2012)

Portland, Oregon is home to some of the best and brightest bands the American metal scene has to offer. But more importantly, they house some of the darkest. For 15 years, Witch Mountain has called Portland home. And throughout their career, they have chosen to do things their own way, which could easily by characterized as the "road less traveled." In doing so, the band has maintained control of their catalog, their touring, and their fan base, refusing to relinquish that for an easily signed, or easily regretted, record deal. With the addition of Uta Plotkin, a voice that Pitchfork called a "national treasure," in 2009, the now four piece classic doom band has all the pieces in place. With this new self titled EP, part of the free Scion A/V series, all of the decisions made along the way have paid off.

The opening riffs of "Bloodhound" are proof that evil isn't about being the heaviest band, or having the scariest artwork. The simple yet eerily effective chords are enough to send chills down your spine. The density of the guitar work is scary in and of itself, with a slow, plodding drum beat blasting through the background. With a rhythm section carrying the load, it allows guitarist Rob Wrong to have some freedom in his playing, adding subtle, twisting touches. But it is Plotkin's voice that seals the deal, adding a depth to the mix that classic and modern doom bands alike have worked a lifetime for. Her voice occupies the lower and middle register, delivering a perfect mix of haunting and sublime in every note. in the fashion of some of the greats, the second half explodes in a flurry of activity, with Wrong unleashing a wild solo that turns you around, flips you over, and throws you back.

The second track, the more groove laden "A Power Greater" is a sonic fire starter. The rhythm section of drummer Nathan Carson and bassist Neal Munson shine in the early going with a wealth of blast beats, cashing cymbals and rumbling bass lines. Plotkin enters, but her voice has taken on an entirely different sound here, embodying the blues elements that form the foundation of great doom metal. That frame work is echoed by Wrong, who delves into a dynamic solo that hits all the right notes along the way. Everything is played in the perfect combination, creating a dark, frightening atmosphere with nary a growl, scream, or gory reference to be had. Instead, they plug ahead with deliberate drum beats, the sizzle of cymbals coating a rousing thud of the kick drum. The feedback and double kicks that take up the better part of the outro are like the signature at the end of a letter, reminding you of who you are hearing, and why you started listening in the first place.

Witch Mountain make it all seem so easy, so simple. In two songs and a mere eleven minutes, these four musicians showcase everything they have to offer, while also reaffirming every decision they made along the way. They could have taken the highway, breezed through the last fifteen years with a record deal that would have been satisfying at first, but troubling soon after. But by holding on to the music, the true reason we are all here, they afford themselves the luxury of owning their blood, sweat and tears. With a formula now in place, and a bright future directly in their path, it is safe to say they not only did it their way; they did it the right way. And that has made all the difference.


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