Witch Mountain – South Of Salem …   1 comment

After a 10 year break between albums, Portland’s Witch Mountain are back finally, with their new album called ‘South Of Salem.’ This is where I will get my only real complaint out-of-the-way, this album is a measly 38 minutes long. I know I should be grateful for getting at least this much from this great band but their last album ‘Come the Mountain’ was over 70 minutes long, twice the length of this one. Oh well, beggars can’t be chooser’s. The meager running time doesn’t make this any less of a monumental album though, the second vocalist Uta Plotkin opens her mouth on the first track makes you aware you are in for one hell of a ride. The band was first-born back in 1997 only to be put on hold in 2002 before starting to perform again in 2005, only to temporary split again I believe for a number of years. I think this had something to do with various band-members bringing kids into the world and as some of you would know, that pretty much puts a halt to most things in life but they are back now and the world of heavy music is much better off for it.

The album opens with a 8 minute masterpiece titled ‘Wing of the Lord’ and the opening minutes of the Sleep-ish riffing coupled with Ula Plotkin’s amazing vocal phrasing is mesmerizing. This beast of a track is down-tuned and heavy with all the sabbathian qualities you would want from a doomy outfit. Plotkin’s vocals are soulful, bluesy and full of old-school power or to put it another way, you don’t hear too many female singers in metal like this these days.

Musically it is familiar and not exactly unique but it is so infectious with such a strong groove, it don’t mean a sh*t, this is about as good as it gets for trad-doom. ‘Plastic Cage’ follows nicely but isn’t so immediately satisfying. It starts with a killer bass riff followed by another riff with another emotional-draining vocal performance. I don’t normally pay too much attention to vocalists especially in doom bands but I can’t help myself with Witch Mountain, the vocals really are the center point to the band’s sound. ‘South Sugar’ keeps the infectious riffage going but a bit more bluesy this time and the atmosphere is simply electrifying.

‘End Game’ gets the albums second half off to a bone-jarring start with some mid-tempo crunching guitar-work. The song is fairly short and straight to the point but it is again, incredibly memorable. From here on, it is doom all the way with the 12 minute plus of ‘Hare’s Stare.’ The crawling, seething riffing along with Plotkin’s menacing vocal take gives this track the distinction of being ‘South Of Salem’s’ most evil tune. It is mostly plodding, ritualistic doom-metal with tribal drum patterns but with a droning twist that enters the picture before a mid-tempo gear change. By this point in the song, you will be drooling with the majestic, hypnotic groove of it all but wait till the song’s final section kicks in, it will have you rolling on the floor in doom-metal heaven. The album ends all too quickly with the 1:28 minute instrumental, ‘End Game (Slight Return)’ which is a rather lucid psychedelic ending to the ‘South Of Salem’ album.

This is highly recommended for fans of Sleep, YOB and of course Black Sabbath and I don’t know how many of you have ever heard the band Zephyr from the early 70’s with the great vocals of Candy Givens but something about Witch Mountain reminds me of a heavy version of them.

This album won’t change the world of stoner-doom, nor will it go down in history as anything terribly unique but song for song, this is just as memorable as any other doomy kind of  album made in the last 40 years. Not quite a 10 out of 10 as it is a bit short but it is damn fine and gets better every time you listen…..9.5/10

PS: This album is available via their bandcamp page with a ‘name your price’ deal – what are you waiting for ?

Witch Mountain @ BandCamp.com
Witch Mountain @ Myspace

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Posted May 27, 2011 by doommantia in Witch Mountain

One response to “Witch Mountain – South Of Salem …

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  1. great album but the male vocals on their older albums are more of my taste.

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