Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cauldron of the Wild - Witch Mountain - 2012

It seems that, suddenly, it's gotten all retro and doomy around here. From recent replays of Electric Wizard to the throwback vibes of Christian Mistress, what's old is new again, albeit all downtuned and despairing. Until I picked up Cauldron of the Wild all Witch Mountain meant to me was some flick I remember from childhood where Eddie Albert flies an RV full of kids away from Ray Milland. Cauldron of the Wild is decidedly more sinister than those hazy recollections though nearly equally confounding. Reading up on the band, it appears they've gone through several configurations, only recently represented on vocals by Uta Plotkin. There are many elements here with which I'm immediately reminded of Blood Ceremony for whom, frankly, I do not care. Remove that flute, though, improve the vocals, add an almost dewy, organic element to the sound and you've got the very satisfying Cauldron of the Wild.

Witch Mountain cast aside the dour drone oft adopted by the genre practitioners and instead successfully hearken back to the seeds of Sabbath, plunging into the depths, ascending the peaks, all the while shrouded in smoke and shadow. Likewise, the band can namecheck Crowley with the best of 'em ("Aurelia") but also belt out a character-driven gunslinger ballad in the gothic tradition of Nick Cave ("The Ballad of Lanky Rae"). "Beekeeper," in particular, communicates the band's best qualities. The pause at 37 seconds in after smoke...smoke...smells of oak communicates hesitation, exhaustion, resignation and, finally, commitment to descent, to doom. The chorus shifts from the most intentionally wretched of vocals to an outright hymn of praise extolling the cycle of dominance and submission.

With only six tracks in 45 minutes, Cauldron of the Wild offers little room for Witch Mountain to flag and, thankfully, they never do. With the last two glorious numbers making up nearly half the record's length, Cauldron of the Wild comes across as the first two acts in some grand guignol. It seems like Witch Mountain have just gotten started and we're waiting, watching between our fingers, for what's next.

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