Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Witch Mountain: Cauldron of the Wild (2012)

Doomed Souls

A year ago, I reviewed the incredible comeback album from Witch Mountain, a band whose completely analog, soul-meets-rock-meets doom sound could have been at the original Woodstock--and crushed all the hippies under its incredible heaviness. Then I put it at the number 23 spot on my end-of-2011 list. Just so you know where I'm coming from.

For the most part, Cauldron of the Wild is a continuation of that sound. The first half of the record is all swagger and doomy rock. "The Ballad of Lanky Rae" kicks things off with a folk tale akin to Johnny Cash's "The Legend of John Henry's Hammer," if Cash sounded like Joplin fronting Sabbath. It's not a huge departure for this band.

But the next song, "Beekeeper," introduces a darker sound, and even some raspy growls from frontwoman Uta Plotkin. These growls make several other appearances on the record, adding a new dimension to her usual soul and giving her a broader emotional palette. The song is catchy as hell, too.

The occasional growling is the only notable evolution in the band's sound. Otherwise, things have stayed the same from last year, in terms of style as well as quality. The shorter, rock-oriented songs are the stronger material, while the longer, brooding cuts at the end are still good, but less so. Thankfully, they put them at the end, so if you don't have the patience for them you can stop after the first four. It seems they don't even want you to stick around, because a long period of what may as well be silence separates the last two. I find that incredibly annoying.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Witch Mountain have continued their winning streak and made one incremental step forward. Fans of South of Salem will find plenty to like here, but if you didn't care for that one then Cauldron of the Wild isn't going to change your mind.

And guys, I'll see you tonight at the Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln.

Buy Cauldron of the Wild


  1. Gotta disagree that the growling is the only difference in the sound: overall, there is a MUCH more densely textured sound happening here.

    Notice the vocal harmonies. There were none that I can recall on Salem. Uta's voice sounds generally stronger on this album.

    The guitar playing overall is heavier, darker, and more overdubbed. The overall effect is more claustrophobic, and tons less "live."

    Anyhow, just thought I'd point out some thoughts that I had while listening to this the first time the other day. Salem sounds INCREDIBLE on vinyl, hope this one is the same!

  2. I need to listen to the two back-to-back, then.

  3. Also, I did NOT have the volume turned up high enough when I was listening to this, because I'm liking it more.

    I go in phases where I listen a little louder for a while, then I start to get paranoid that I'm making my tinnitus worse and start listening quieter. This makes me happy for a while, but inevitably I run across a great recording job that needs to be heard louder. My tinnitus isn't bad right now--even listening quietly the music drowns it out--but I am paranoid about the prospect of making it worse.

  4. I didn't like SoS but I really do like this one. I am still formulating my thoughts on exactly why...

  5. That's weird, because the style isn't all that different. After taking a couple more listens, I've decided I like the sound of Salem better, because it's heavier and more live feeling, but the songs might be slightly better here. "Beekeeper" is sure as hell great.

  6. So I finally did a post. Have a look if you get the time. Do you still feel the same way about the last two songs? Aurelia is actually my favourite, although it's a tough call between that and Shelter. Hell, they are all good songs.

    I think it's the new density of guitar texture that I like. I have probably listened to it about 20 times this week, I'm hooked.

    I intend to go back to SoS to see if I am more open to it now.

  7. I have started listening a little louder . . . and the ringing in my ears is slightly worse at the end of a 10-hour day at work, but not too bad. Soon enough I should be able to work at home 80% of the time, so I won't have to use headphones all the time and I can listen even louder.

    I still feel that those are the weakest songs on here, and that the long, quiet section doesn't add a whole lot. Those two have grown on me somewhat, but the less heavy sound of the record has dragged the album down a little bit. In the end I think my opinion is still that it's a 4/5 album, but not for exactly the same reasons as before.

    I rushed myself into writing this review because I wanted it up the day the band came to town, so, yeah, that explains why it's not my best work.