When, Portland , Oregon's Witch Mountain, released their 2014 album "Mobile of Angel's" it came as a bit of a bitter/sweet pill, the joy associated with the release of an album from a band, who at the time were on every underground rock/doom fan's lips , was counterbalanced by the news that it would be their last with their charismatic and highly talented vocalist Uta Plotkin. Rumours that the band were auditioning new singers and bassists soon came trickling through the grapevine but it was a few months before founding members Rob Wrong (guitars) and Nathan Carson (percussion) announced the arrival into their rocky coven of Justin Brown (bass) and Kayla Dixon (vocals). Not wishing to head straight into the studio just to make a statement that Witch Mountain had reconvened as a band Wong and Carson decided to bed Dixon and Brown in by heading out on tour thus allowing not only the new members the time to adjust to their new surroundings but also the fans to appreciate and accept the new dynamics the two new recruits were about to bring to the table. Desert Psychlist is not too sure if that period of transition was planned to take almost three years but that is how it worked out and now finally, with the release of "Witch Mountain" (Svart Records), we have something tangible we can at last drool and slaver over and spin to our hearts content.
There will be those of us, Desert Psychlist included, who will always have a fondness and high regard for Uta Plotkin period Witch Mountain but Uta has moved on to new pastures and it would be rude, and also a little lazy, for Desert Psychlist to fill this review with comparisons between her and new vocalist Kayla and therefore lets not do that, instead let us concentrate on the dynamics and shades the superbly talented new vocalist brings to Witch Mountain and this their new album.
Kayla Dixon is a phenomenally adept and versatile vocalist who can, in the blink of an eye, shift from soulful chanteuse to venom spitting demoness while also having the ammunition in her vocal arsenal to switch, just as easily, from ethereal whisper to bluesy howl. Dixon screams, growls, howls and croons over a mixture of diverse and varied doomic backdrops, superbly provided for her by Wrong's thick downtuned riffs and scorching solo's, Carson's mix of intricate and punishing rhythms and Brown's grumbling, booming bass lines, bringing a soulful and emotional edge to songs like "Midnight", "Mechanical World" (a Spirit cover) and "Burn You Down" yet able to suddenly drag them down in to the abyss with a guttural growl and anguished scream. On the wonderfully paced "Hellfire" she even gets to bring an element of gospel(ish) jazziness to proceedings, her voice soaring majestically over gentle guitar arpeggios and piano accompaniment. It is on the epic closer "Nighthawk" however that Witch Mountain's new line up really show their mettle, a slow building opus that not only highlights Dixon's amazing vocal range but also gives new bassist Brown the chance to shine, his earthy, big booming bass not only introducing the song but also at the root of the songs gradually increasing dynamic. This is Witch Mountain at their finest, bluesy, soulful and laying down thick slabs of atmospheric, cloying doom, the band building the song layer upon glorious layer until suddenly exploding into a wonderful, mind-blowing hybrid of grimy blackened doom and gnarled extreme metal.
The fact that the band have simply called their new opus "Witch Mountain" speaks volumes and tells us in two words that this is the beginning of a new chapter in Witch Mountain's story, it is the band's way of saying let's not forget our history and what previous members contributed to that history but let's start anew, this is our fresh start, our "ground zero"
Check it out …..© 2018 Frazer Jones