All Them Witches
Dying Surfer Meets his Maker
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
It’s hard to imagine where you would look to find one of the country’s finest post-psychedelic/blues/space/stoner rock outfits, but it’s safe to say Nashville isn’t the first city that comes to mind. However, someone forgot to tell All Them Witches that. The adjectives “country,” “singer-songwriter” and “strummy” are nowhere near the vocabulary of this largely instrumental four-piece that sets its controls for the heart of the sun.
The quartet’s influences are easy to peg; a heaping bunch of Pink Floyd lyricism mixed with strains of scuzzy prog and metal served up with a subversive, simmering intensity custom made for the soundtrack of an acid trip nightmare. Mostly recorded live at a mountain cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., far from the tacky tourist main street, you can feel these four guys feeding off each other’s energy as they plow through the four long (over six minutes) and five shorter (under four minutes) tracks that comprise their third album.
The vibe shifts from the expansive, atmospheric dreamy night-sweat of “Blood and Sand/Mild and Endless Waters” with drumming straight out of the John Bonham playbook, to the relative comfort of the morning after comedown from the appropriately-titled acoustic “Mellowing.” Vocals from bassist Charles Michael Parks Jr. are mellow and nicely understated especially for music of such sinewy power. At times, as in the plodding “Dirt Preachers,” it seems the band is channeling Black Sabbath at their most ominous. Clocking in over eight minutes, the monstrous “El Centro” sounds as improvised as longer jams from the Grateful Dead, albeit with a far darker, more intoxicating, and even violent pulse. The slow blues grind of “This is Where it Falls Apart” adds Willie Nelson’s longtime harpist Mickey Raphael to bring another dimension to Witches’ brew. There will be no twirl dancing here, please.
The album is sequenced to breathe and undulate like a concert, and it’s likely these studio versions are blueprints for what seems like a supersonic, substance-fueled live show. All Them Witches, with a name taken from a book in the movie Rosemary’s Baby, don’t play by Nashville’s (or anyone else’s) rules. They just make music that pleases them and in doing that also created one of the most adventurous, least predictable albums of the year.