PICK OF THE WEEK: As current era closes, Witch Mountain deliver soul-toppling ‘Mobile of Angels’

Musician Portrait seriesTo use an oft-spouted cliché, all good things must come to an end. That’s a profoundly sad statement if you take time to really analyze what it means. Your relationships, families, circle of friends, and life all will vanish one day. Most likely, it will happen due to something bad happening. Everyone smiling now?

But not all ends are because of catastrophe, though they can be just as upsetting. Uta Plotkin, who has fronted the great doom metal band Witch Mountain for their last three releases, announced she is exiting the group following a brief touring cycle for their fourth record “Mobile of Angels.” Wow, how do I say this without devaluing the contributions of the rest of the band? Well, that’s not my intent, but I don’t see how they carry on now. Plotkin was a vital organ in the band’s creative body. She was that missing piece Witch Mountain lacked on their 2001 debut “Come the Mountain,” and she powered this band forward with her unmistakable voice and gut-wrenching delivery. The rest of the band is comprised of fine, accomplished players in their own right, and I’m sure the next incarnation of Witch Mountain still will be worth our attention. But wow, this is a major loss. This hurts. And the fact that “Mobile” is hands down their best record, one that could have been a major groundbreaker for the band, is even more gutting.

Witch Mountain coverBut here it is, this five-track, nearly 39-minute document that will be remembered as one of 2014’s finest records by a number of outlets. Rest assured. Plotkin and her bandmates, guitarist Rob Wrong, bassist Charles Thomas, and drummer Nathan Carson, reach something magical on this collection. I’ve been a little up and down on the band’s albums (loved “South of Salem” immediately; “Cauldron of the Wild” still is taking time to grow on me), but “Mobile” is a holy-shit-they-arrived document. It is must-hear, lifetime-achievement worthy, and I can’t help but again say what a shame it is that it marks the end of the road for this version of the band. They deserve to play huge rooms with this release, with Plotkin’s world-swelling voice filling every crevice. Too bad that won’t be so.

The opener “Psycho Animundi” is one of the dirtiest, most aggravated songs on the band’s entire catalog, with Plotkin going darker and grittier with her vocals, practically spitting out her words most of the way. The music, especially Wrong’s guitar work, is particularly bluesy, and there is a menace hiding in plain sight on this one. The song keeps charging, with Plotkin practically shouting, “All I want is to get out, to transport, to transcend,” which seem like very telling words, before the song goes clean and calm. Everything gets heavy again before the track bleeds to a sorrowful finish. “Can’t Settle” starts with sludgy riffs, the band heading again into blues territory, and Plotkin calling, “It’s growing like a cancer, it’s growing like Rosemary’s baby.” From there, her voice soars high, and the band backs her with atmospheric passages that head right into pure doom. Growls are unfurled, the only point on the record where that happens, and as the torment and dark clouds accumulate, Plotkin vows, “I’m getting the hell out of here,” with fiery soloing taking the song to its gripping conclusion.

“Your Corrupt Ways” is the 10:27 centerpiece, and it’s one of their most impressive songs ever. This is where all the forces comprising this record are at their highest, every instrument and every player. It’s an unreal track, with Plotkin opening, “I don’t think you’re aware of how falsely you appear,” with the band swelling behind her and offering a tidal wave of their own emotions. The track is like an extended relationship epitaph, and while it may have nothing to do with Plotkin’s eventual decision to move on, the way she delivers lines like, “I’m afraid our differences we can’t reconcile,” it sounds like she’s wrestling with dark shadows and decisions that have overcome her. The last few minutes of the song let everyone get out their energy, and it’s a massive caterwaul of expression. The title track follows and lets you blood come back to normal, with eerie soundscapes, keys swimming and creating a medicine head-like effect, and Plotkin wondering, “What will he see at the end of the world?” Closer “The Shape Truth Takes” is an incredible finish, the perfect way to drop the curtain on this record. The track is sorrowful and slower, as the band walks their final steps together. There are great, quivering guitars along the way, Plotkin’s vocals hit a higher register as she has her say, and the band builds to a crescendo that’s like a dam breaking and unloading billions of gallons of water all over. Wrong’s soloing is exploratory and enthralling, and the four members of Witch Mountain bring the record to a stunning finish that suits their power as a unit and should have your heart surging.

I hate making this review sound like a eulogy, and let me reiterate that every part of this band is vital and powerful. But you can’t help but mourn that that voice no longer will be a part of this band. That’s a tough thing to accept, especially considering how great “Mobile of Angels” truly is. At best, this band is going out on a major high note before they write their next chapter, whatever that may be. As for Plotkin, we can only hope we hear more from her in the future, be that on her own or with one of her other bands. She’s too vital, too good to lose. Hopefully both sides go on to new, great heights, with the majesty of this record powering their respective journeys.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/witchmountain

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

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

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