Witch Mountain - Cauldron of the Wild
Profound Lore Records
6 songs (45:23)
Release year: 2012
Witch Mountain, Profound Lore Records
Reviewed by Charles
Witch Mountain’s South of Salem was a pretty special record: easily my favourite doom album of last year, owing mainly to its swinging blues feel and its irresistible set of songwriting hooks. Given that Cauldron of the Wild follows so soon after, it could reasonably expected to sound very similar. Even an easily bored neophiliac such as myself would put up with that, at least for another record or so, so long as the quality held up. Indeed, opener Lanky Rae continues along the same path; a languid blues rock song whose slow lolloping gait fits nicely with the lyrical content, about a freakishly ungainly woman. But get further into this and it becomes apparent that it’s quite a different album. Not very different, mind, but certainly a bit different.

Put simply, it’s a bit darker, and more metallic. Tracks like End Game or South Sugar from the last record were concise, bluesy, and heavily amplified pop tunes, but there isn’t anything quite like that to be found here. The closest thing is probably Shelter, which is actually based around a slithering quasi-drone rhythm section, but one which is offset strikingly by the warm melodic patterns frontwoman Uta Plotkin throws out around the chorus. Her vocals are, as before, the obvious centrepiece here, and I think like the band itself reflects a new, harsher intensity. Beekeeper and Veil of the Forgotten are based around grimily chromatic tonalities rather than lush blues scales, and this is matched by some new vocal methods: lots of sustained wails, piercingly harmonised and delivered with maximum melodrama, almost comparable to a European goth band. But that latter point makes it sound a bit crap, when it definitely isn’t. Instead when, on Beekeeper, Plotkin suddenly leaps up a fifth on the last syllable of the phrase “ A cycle of dominance and submiss-ioooonnnnn!” the result is a slightly deranged sound that is as much comparable to her batshit other band, Aranya, than most of South of Salem.

The last two tracks here are a statement of the band’s ambition. Both begin with long stretches of quiet, which inevitably and suddenly crank up into cathartic doom metal. Aurelia, in particular, is really neatly constructed; the opening sections dripping with evocative melody, and the heavy climax squeezing every ounce of weight of its leaden tempo. Once again, the theatrical tension added by the “goodbye Aurelia” vocals towards the culmination of the track further underline that there is a somewhat different approach at work here.

As a result of all this, Cauldron of the Wild doesn’t have the same immediacy as its predecessor, which was already one of my favourite albums before I’d even finished the first play through. Instead it burns a lot more slowly. It is sophisticated and sinister. It demands a bit more attention from the listener, and it rewards that attention greatly.

Killing Songs :
Beekeeper, Aurelia, Never Know
Charles quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Witch Mountain that we have reviewed:
Witch Mountain - Mobile of Angels reviewed by Charles and quoted 85 / 100
Witch Mountain - South of Salem reviewed by Jake and quoted 90 / 100
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