“Metalheads return to mid-valley” (Aug. 5-12, 2011)
Nathan Carson is a man of his word. When I spoke to the Witch Mountain drummer last summer, he promised that a “South of Salem” follow-up was coming “within the next 12 months.” Although conceivably a considerable wait, the gap was more agreeable than the decade-wide gulf that separated “Salem” from its predecessor, “ … Come the Mountain” (2001).
As prophesied, “Cauldron of the Wild” (if that Sam Ford/Jason Lewis cover were any more badass, I fear these eyes would bleed) is nigh, scheduled to land June 12 via Profound Lore Records. Carson was kind enough to slip me a taste of the heaviness within, and I vigorously scrubbed my ears in anticipation. So hitch up yer guts, kids: We’re going back to Witch Mountain for six thick pan-thrashing tracks of senses-obliterating swagger.
The tundra rumbles from the git-go with “The Ballad of Lanky Rae,” but according to vocalist Uta Plotkin, possessor of some of metal’s most magnificently elastic scales, that’s the title character’s doing.
Lanky Rae’s one of those larger-than-life concoctions poured into mythology, tall tales, barroom braggadocio and old blues traditionals. She’s a 7-foot tower of deadly trigger precision, a demon-sired hell-diver who’d bagged her first kill and split the city before her 10th birthday. Not even the underworld can tame her; she’s quite at ease around brimstone and such. Her legend is built from a tapestry of Plotkin’s careful narrative and Rob Wrong’s Tony Iommian shreddage casting fireballs into the heart of civilization as Carson and new bassist Neal Munson (replacing Dave Hoopaugh, who bowed out in February) flatten buildings into powder.
Arriving in “Beekeeper” on a crushing maelstrom, Plotkin sings as if reciting incantations from an ancient book of spells, summoning banshee howls from parts unknown and best not named. Then she drops that voice into a bone-dusting subterranean growl, a depth she also explores in a rerecorded “Veil of the Forgotten,” the “Adult Swim: Metal Swim” track that introduced legions to her range in 2010. (It settles wonderfully into the LP’s flow.) Again, Plotkin busts out strong, leaving ice-riddled spines as Wrong (whose guitar sounds the way a classic Mustang should in dreams) whips and churns from channel to channel.
Plotkin appraises her devastated surroundings in “Shelter,” seven-plus minutes of the blackest, sweetest dystopia e’er bled into a chalice. The instrumentalists lie in wait, Munson allowing her enough rope to balance across as she records her impressions, then spring their trap, collapsing atop her in full force. Hell’s above, not below, they seem to say.
A similar predicament plagues the slower “Aurelia.” “You don’t talk in this town, you don’t walk in this town,” Plotkin advises, adding, “you just run, run, run.” Something sinister lurks this way, and that dread never subsides even in an acoustic epilogue as the curtain makes its final descent.
It’s an effective lead-in to the final cut, “Never Know,” a gloriously long narcotic blues in which Plotkin asks, “Oh, baby, what’s your doom?” before that sonic hammer comes down, answering its own question: This would be your doom of choice, and June 12 can’t come soon enough.
Witch Mountain joins Norska and Arcweld at 9 p.m. Saturday, May 5, at Cloud & Kelly’s Public House, 126 S.W. First St., Corvallis. For immediate gratification, visit http://witchmountain.bandcamp.com.