Psyche out with Witch Mountain, Ancestors, TAB

Witch Mountain

There’s an association with psychedelic metal and doom and mind-altering substances, and I’m not going to suggest that link isn’t accurate. It surely is. But is that combination necessary to get the most out of this kind of music? I don’t think it is, and I offer myself as evidence.

I’ve long enjoyed psychedelic-laced music –clichéd as it may be, I love Pink Floyd and want to flick a hipster in the face every time Pitchfork writes some snooty piece about how that band’s more successful material somehow isn’t up to snuff because, mew mew mew, people like it – Led Zeppelin’s trippier material, and even Black Sabbath’s mind-melting stuff, and I’ve never been in any altered state when listening to these bands (I don’t consider drunkenness an altered stare … I don’t think I need to spell this out). But they still take me on a bizarre journey and I’m always able to let my thoughts wander even if the most dangerous substance in my blood in the time may be a few beers. But to each his or her own, and I certainly can see why something a little extra can enhance the experience.

Of course, as time’s gone on, psychedelic elements and classic doom have worked their way into the thinking of more modern bands, from black metal battle masters Nachtmystium, whose last few records have been out there in spots, and they’ve turned into one of that genre’s most interesting, unpredictable bands as a result; High on Fire, who grew out of Sleep, who are one of the leaders of this sound; Gigan, a death metal group currently recording for Willowtip whose new disc, as mentioned yesterday, we’ll examine soon; revived veterans Pentagram, who are enjoying their most fruitful period and are now with Metal Blade; and The Gates of Slumber, a band that really would have been at home in the early 1980s and have made some fantastic albums in their time together. These are just a few examples off the top of my head, of course, and I’m sure you have your own favorites, but it’s clear that these sounds that grew to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s are alive and smoking today.

Three bands with new music on the shelves (or ready for download, for those who aren’t aware physical albums still are available for purchase) also are helping contribute to this scene, and the three acts could not be more different from each other sonically. They’re quite easy to tell apart, if you stream their songs (or song, in one band’s case) into each other, and they all approach psychedelic rock and metal and doom in totally different ways. One could even argue these bands – Witch Mountain, Ancestors, The Atomic Bitchwax — are not purely heavy metal, and I could see that argument, but certainly there should be some crossover appeal.

Finally, we long-suffering have been rewarded with the much-awaited new album “South of Salem” from Witch Mountain, a band that’s been around for quite some time but has very little as far as back catalog to show for their effort. In fact, they haven’t put out a record since 2001’s “Come the Mountain,” and in the decade since that effort saw the light of day, much has changed, most notably within the band. The biggest alteration is the addition of siren Uta Plotkin as their new singer, and she makes all the difference in the world. Her vocals are soulful, alluring and sexy, and her approach reminds me a lot of Jex Thoth (her own band, Sabbath Assembly) and Christine Davis of Christian Mistress. Not to take away from the band’s swaggering, gritty, doom rock and metal, which is excellent, but Plotkin is the show, hands down. It’s impossible not to hang onto her every word, and her performance is charged with emotion, intensity and a smokiness that keeps you coming back for another helping.

The music itself is sludgy, drubbing and melodic, as guitarist Rob Wrong (he formerly handled lead vocals), drummer Nate Carson, and bassist David Hoopaugh have that knack for thrashing sequences that force you to nod your head slowly along with what they’re doing, even if you happen to be doing it without realizing your actions. The first two cuts “Wing of the Lord” and “Plastic Cage” are like one piece, as the first bleeds into the second, and though the stretch is about 15 minutes long, it never seems that way. If you’re like me, you’ll be mesmerized and will just follow along, no questions asked. “South Sugar” has more of a rock groove to it, with some scintillating soloing slicing a path in the middle; while epic, 12:29-long “Hare’s Stare” is a slow melter, where Plotkin sounds more sinister and daring, and the thunder displayed by the other three often sounds menacing and near classic Sabbath terrain. It’s a fantastic comeback album by a band that never truly got to make its mark. My guess is “South of Salem” will change all that, and don’t be surprised if Plotkin becomes a star as a result.

For more on Witch Mountain, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Witch-Mountain/103657189692474

To buy “South of Salem” (available on vinyl or digitally), go here:  http://witchmountain.bandcamp.com/releases

Ancestors

Referring back to Pink Floyd, and most notably their post-Syd Barrett era, it didn’t take me too long to get the hang of the new Ancestors EP “Invisible White.” I’ve been following this band ever since their first album “Neptune With Fire” and have kept them in fairly regular listening rotation since then. Their last effort, 2009’s “Of Sound Mind,” marked their debut with Tee Pee and showed a band clearly in a state of evolution. While they maintained some of the gruff and muscle of their debut, they seemed to be heading into a spacier, warmer direction, which is proved true on this new mini-release.

“Invisible White” is a pretty gentle listen, to be honest with you. Ancestors always had their breezier, dreamier times, but they always balanced that out with some harsher vocals and melodies, a few punches to the gut when you least expected it. The title track, a 7:22 opus, is a solemn, emotional dose of space rock balladry that never loses its focus and always brings you back to its centerpiece chorus. No hyperbole intended, it’s one of my favorite songs of the year in any genre. I imagine it might be too non-metal for some, in fact this whole EP may be, but that’s too bad if that’s the case. You’re missing out a lovely, moving effort here. “Dust” has some folk and prog elements to it, and it crescendos late in the song, with piano drops and synth clouds setting in; and the closer “Epilogue” isn’t much different from the other two philosophically, but at 14 minutes, it lets the band branch out, noodle with an aim in mind, and reach into the cosmos for inspiration. I really dig this EP, and for me, it’s only heightening my anticipation for the band’s next full-length. I’m curious to know what you folks think about this record.

For more on Ancestors, go here: http://ancestorsmusic.com/

To buy “Invisible White,” go here: http://teepee.hasawebstore.com/preorderancestorsinvisiblewhiteep

For more on the label, go here: http://teepeerecords.com/

The Atomic Bitchwax

For some reason, I never really got on board with The Atomic Bitchwax. And I’m not even sure why that is. They always had a cool sound, and the dudes in the band certainly have paid their fair share of dues, not just here but with bands such as Godspeed, Raging Slab, Monster Magnet and Core, and hell, their name alone should have been enough to get me amped up for them. Pretty bad reason to like a band, huh? Anyway, for whatever reason, they just never stuck with me, and I attribute this solely to me and not anything they did wrong. I’m sure the Bitchwax dudes will be breathing a sigh of relief after learning that. But with their new record out, this was a time to go back and maybe make amends.

Actually, if there was a record to indoctrinate me (or anyone) into the Atomic Bitchwax world this one isn’t the one. “The Local Fuzz” is unlike anything this band has done before because, instead of putting together a record of 10-12 tracks like they’d ordinarily do, this time they put together one song, held together by “no less than 50 back-to-back riffs” on a piece that lasts 42:18. It is, in a word, ridiculous. But in a good way. It may not be that ideal piece to draw new fans or remind those who fell off the wagon why they really need to be here, but damn if it isn’t a wild ride. It’s almost breath-taking the way it blasts from riff to riff, often making me think of Foghat, old Rush, Fireball Ministry and Kyuss among others. Oh, and there are no vocals. It just a fire-breathing, blast of an effort that will work great if you plan to party in the driveway, keg at your side, with you hoping to put something into the stereo you won’t have to touch for a while. Not your standard TAB, but it’s awesome summer weekend music.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.theatomicbitchwax.com/The_Atomic_Bitchwax/TAB.html

To buy “The Local Fuzz,” go here: http://teepee.hasawebstore.com/theatomicbitchwax/artist/39143

OK, so you don’t need mind-altering substances to enjoy these albums, and I stand by that assertion. But you may need some to get you through the record we’ll discuss tomorrow.

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