Thursday, 30 August 2012

Review: Witch Mountain - Cauldron of the Wild: Born of the cauldron, the wild will rise - 96%

This is, my friends, the greatest doom album of the year, Cauldron of the Wild, the sophomore release from this band from Oregon with the vocalist Uta Plotkin is almost perfect. Their first release on the Canadian label Profound Lore follows the excellent South of Salem and this album is a total continuation of their sentimental blend of doom metal. I wanted to review this musical piece since I got it, the day it was released if I remember correctly, but I decided to wait and found the appropriate words and I'm glad I did.

I know that I'm a sucker for doom metal with female vocals but Plotkin is truly, truly unique. She has amazing pipes and she's a real powerhouse. Perhaps, the most talented singer in metal right now. Seeing her live back in june was a real bliss, sadly the crowd was sparse, Montréal is not really a good place for doom, especially on mondays...Surprising how an amazing voice like hers came from a calm and sweet short woman, haha ! Her place is at the mic and nowhere else, she's a mesmerising frontwoman with natural charisma. Usually, she's going all blues berserk mode with high falsettos and slow romantic groovy drinking hymn vocals. But, sometimes, there's these strange harsh vocals, it's definitely good, albeit unorthodox and surprising for this genre. Plotkin wrote all the lyrics and they are fucking great. Sometimes about personal confessions, sometimes it's strange dark stories. For example, the first track "The Ballad of Lanky Rae" is about a strong tall woman who's the daughter of a demon, for example. It's quite fun and I really like the lyricism of her words, it's definitely a part of the complete experience of Witch Mountain. Each song has a different touch and reading them was interesting (I added the lyrics to the MA page and it was a joy to do so, can't say the same about many artists). Her poetry can be amazing, sometimes simple but at the same time full of imagery, I like these lines from "Veil of the Forgotten":

«We will win with patience cold in the stone. Gold Jade and blood amethys and bone.»
«No teeth sink deeper than teeth of time so we just watch it fester.»

She has a real talent for lyrics and she transmits her passion with ease and class on stage. She reminds me of Janis Joplin, she has the same vibrant passion and that's evident, but enough of miss Plotkin! 

During the 45 minutes duration of Cauldron of the Wild, we experience many different emotions. It can be fast paced doom such as  "Beekeeper" and very slow like the last and strong song "Never Know", which is a real romantic bluesy ballad. The guitarist Rob Wrong, the main songwriter of the band really shines throughout the record. His style is mixing the classic Iommi riffs, always the basis of traditionnal and stoner doom with a huge emphasis on bluesy Hendrix-like licks. There's even some Chandler influenced fuzzy riffs and leads. Fortunately for the doom purists, the doom influences are the classic ones, this album is safe from the modern influences of post metal and sludge, even if there's weird moments like these aforementionned harsh vocals, these are minimal. If this album had been released during the heydays of Sleep, it would had been a classic today, the songwriting is solid and just like the wailing and powerful vocals. The riffs are slow, undeniably heavy and borderling on the stoner metal style. There's no restraints in the leads, they're totally vibrant and reminds me of some sort of psychedelic jam sessions where everyone is stoned on acid. Nathan Carson's drumming is top notch, it's classic doom drumming, slow and without frills and defaults. The bass playing of Neal Munson could be higher in the mix, but the emphasis is clearly on the guitar and the vocals and that's fine in my book, but some cooler bass lines would had been nice. Still, the songwriting and musicianship is simply top notch, without limits and never overplayed or technical, it's truly music for your emotions and your spirit, it feeds you romanticism, dark stories and americana. 

The song lengths are perfect, 6 songs, nothing too long, the two last tracks "Aurelia» and "Never Know" are the longest at around 10 minutes each, when the album stops, the music continues in your mind, proof of its worth. Like the album art indicates, the cauldron is warm, full of familiar magic potion, attracting everything in its area with its seductive wildness. This is the sort of music that needs to be played very loud with lots of booze. It's shack music, remove your boots full of fresh earth, fill your cup with that potion and put on wool socks, it feels right, everything will be alright.

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