Witch Mountain – Witch Mountain (Svart Records)

Sunday, 20th May 2018
Rating: 8/10

It’s often said that a singer switcheroo can make or break a band. Particularly when there’s an emphasis on said vocals, as is the case with bands of the doomier variety. So when revered vocalist Uta Plotkin parted ways with Witch Mountain back in 2014, many were quick to speculate what would become of the act. Now with vocalist Kayla Dixon, it turns out Witch Mountain continue to climb, right where they left off.

With the act now pretty road-tested since the 2014 departures (which also included bassist Charles Thomas), Witch Mountain comes across as a confident, slithering piece of doom that stands on an equal playing field with 2014’s Mobile of Angels. The Sabbath-y riffing and bluesy swagger continues to evolve, and it doesn’t take long for new vocalist Dixon to make an impact. “Midnight” sets an immediate groove, and her vocals have an intoxicating and emotive swing to them (not to mention some caustic screams that meld quite well later on). Certainly “Hellfire” is her moment to shine, with acoustic guitars and a darkened atmosphere offering her the lead and allow for some quite poignant moments. But the rest of the band is just as ready to keep up pace, with some of both the most concise and expansive writing seen to date. At 36-minutes in total, there’s plenty of focus shown – there’s no meandering and stumbling around between riffs and dynamics (often a problem with bands like these). Instead there’s just effective rumbling riffs and melodic guitar licks, setting a strong mood that’s equally full of emotion. Of course, there’s also the near 15-minute “Nighthawk” – the band’s lengthiest piece to date. A highlight in and of itself with plenty of dynamic shifts that continue to captivate the listener, it simply flows from beginning to end.

With this self-titled effort, Witch Mountain have proven themselves able to continue their upward trajectory within the stoner/doom community. Recovering from what many figured they could not, this new unit seems primed to escalate things further, thrusting them towards the top of Sabbath-y heap.

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