Sunday, October 21, 2012

Witch Mountain - Cauldron of the Wild

Witch Mountain are a doom band based out of Portland, Oregon. The group released an album in 2001 before going on hold, and since returning they have produced two albums in the last two years. Their previous album finished second on my Top 10 list for 2011, so I was looking forward to seeing what Cauldron of the Wild,  released this summer, would bring to the table.

Witch Mountain's defining qualities are their ability to pull a deeply bluesy sound and attitude into their otherwise fairly traditional doom material, and the strong clean female vocals that manage to avoid sounding flowery or dainty. In both of those areas, this record succeeds. The band still has the same soulful swagger, and Uta Plotkin still belts out her lines with authority. Their core sound is essentially the same as it has been. And, with its longer running time, Cauldron of the Wild  seems on the surface to give more bang for the buck than its predecessor (though the 45 minutes of material are spread over just 6 tracks).

My problem with this record is the insidious and nebulous issue of inconsistent songwriting. It's often difficult to tell what exactly makes the riffs in a track fall flat, sometimes they just do and all one can really say about it is "this riff is boring" or something like that. Well, sadly that's about the best I can do by way of explaining the problem. Some of the tracks really click and sound great, but there are also a couple duds. And when your album only has 6 songs, a couple duds means basically a third of the record isn't particularly enjoyable.

All the surface aesthetics are in place. The deep, plodding bass and reserved drumming provide a solid platform for the semi-distorted psychedelic guitar leads, while Plotkin's vocals take center stage. But while on South of Salem  the formula worked over and over, on Cauldron of the Wild  the effect is more hit-and-miss.

Grade: B-
There were parts of this I absolutely loved, but too much of the record was just bland.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting review. I felt that "South of Salem" wasn't that great, but "Cauldron of the Wild" hit it out of the park. Still, it was a grower. It took some time getting used to Plotkin's vocals.