Four years and a couple member switches since 2014’s Mobile of Angels, Witch Mountain has returned with their fifth studio album. Changing half of the lineup somehow didn’t alter the Portland group’s long running vision. Their brand of downer metal remains defined by setting bluesy guitar melodies and soulful howling to some of the slowest rhythms imaginable outside of funeral doom.
But while new bassist Justin Brown mostly assimilates himself in the background, vocalist Kayla Dixon immediately demands your attention. She has a similar range to the band’s previous singer and even utilizes some similar layering and growling techniques. However, Dixon sets herself apart by her sheer power and oozing passion. Some of that power could be explained by the vocals’ more prominent spot in the mix compared to past albums, but Dixon’s voice is fuller and better suited to belting out. Uta Plotkin is a talented singer in her own right, but bringing Dixon in has really taken the band to a whole new level.
The songwriting isn’t quite dynamic as something like Cauldron of the Wild, but the album’s five tracks are all reasonably distinct. Once “Midnight” comes bursting in with a slow yet explosive blues jam, “Mechanical World” features some interesting off-time riff patterns. From there, lead single “Burn You Down” brings in some solid guitar chugs, “Hellfire” is an excellent acoustic number with splendid vocal layering, and “Nighthawk” closes things out with a fourteen-minute blues jam. The riffs and vocal lines could stand to be more memorable, but you can’t accuse them of phoning it in.
Witch Mountain’s fifth album may take a couple extra listens to get a feel for, but it does an excellent job of summing up everything that the band has to offer. You’ll find the same slow blues doom that they’ve been peddling since their 2011 comeback but there’s no denying that the singer switch resulted in what may be their most aggressive album so far. Longtime fans need not fear the changes, Witch Mountain has only gotten stronger.