Witch Mountain, Cauldron of the Wild

See what they did there, with the title??

Anyhoo, this is apparently going to be a dual (duel?) review of both the Oregon doomster’s latest opus (out June 12, 2012) and Wells & Young’s Ltd. Banana Bread Beer. I hadn’t intended the mash-up, but Goddamn this is good beer.

Just look at this bottle:

Even freakin’ Beeradvocate.com gave it a 79%.

So music nutshell: the current line-up of Witch Mountain is Heart playing modal (one-chord) delta blues on thorazine, and maybe purple drank. I dunno about the latter; I’m no pharmacist.

Self-described as “Portland’s oldest doom metal band,” WM were formed in 1997 by guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson; their debut album (2001) was …Come The Mountain. In 2009 WM added the “soulful, soaring, and unparalleled,” (that’s the ad copy) female vocalist Uta Plotkin. The ad copy as also describes WM as “what Black Sabbath would sound like if Janis Joplin fronted them.”

Which is also a great description of their sound.

In 2010 they recorded their sophomore album South Of Salem, which leads us up to the present review of Cauldron of the Wild.

Opener “The Ballad of Lanky Rae,” tells a strangely convoluted Flannery O’Connery-esque tale of a wanderer, over a lurching one-chord riff;

“Beekeeper” (credit them with clever or at least idiosyncratic, lyrics) adds a chord or two to their previous riff-formula (rifformula?) and a soaring harmonized female vocal that almost sounds prayer/chant like. It’s quite cool and striking in its effect. At about 1:45 the riff awesomely bottoms out, going even lower than that tuning should be capable of (while someone, maybe the singer, rasps black-metal style, over it, a nice contrast to the monastery-like chants); this is probably my favorite track on here, for the sheer amount of diversity it manages to add to what started off as a hyper-simple doom metal song….

The opening of “Shelter” strips back their sound even further, just bass and vocals, until the guitars come back in, something like Joplin covering “War Pigs” (see above; well done, publicist)… “Veil of the Forgotten” is the shortest track here and just as good as “Beekeeper,” as when the vocals and full orchestration kicks in at 0:42 the effect is cool– all lurching riffs and minor-sounding vocals… next we’ve “Aurelia,” a great track about 7 minutes too long (see below)… and finally we close with “Never Know”: freakin’ doom bands, the damn track doesn’t even have audio until around 0:45, and doesn’t really blow up until 4:52… although I’m not gonna lie, if you were stoned, this track is the best one overall, and one where the blues influence is the most obvious….

Caveats? Same as with all doom metal: any track over 5 minutes is probably too long if you’re not stoned.

Bottom line on Cauldron of the Wild:

Do you enjoy Demon Lung or Crystal Viper? The Devil’s Blood? Christian Mistress or Royal Thunder?

If you said yes you cockteasing whore to any of the above female-fronted metal/doom/rock acts, then you’ll definitely dig this– especially if you liked more than one.

Short version of all the above bands: if you want your sheer heavy, and like it bluesy– you want Witch Mountain (the blues shuffle-swagger, with lyrics telling tragic stories is definitely present);

if you want the sheer heavy, but want your metal straight– get you some Demon Lung.

if you want your heavy slightly less heavy but memorable as shit, you want The Devil’s Blood (seriously, “Fire Burning” is as memorable as anything on the fucking Disney channel);

if you want an overall blend of everything I’ve mentioned, but more metal? Christian Mistress. Want more rock? Royal Thunder. Don’t want doom in your metal at all, but love you some NWOBHM? Crystal Viper.

Bottomest bottom line of all on Cauldron of the Wild?

Heart covering Black Sabbath, with Ann Wilson trying to imitate Janis Joplin while on Thorazine.

And seriously, how the fucking fuck does Banana Bread Beer fit into analogies of female-fronted doom/rock/ metal (a sub- sub- sub-genre if there ever was one)?

Simple. The beer is sweet and attractive on the surface, but strangely high alcohol underneath, meaning: you’ll want to overindulge, but if you give in to the sexy taste and/or sounds, you’ll pay for it later (read: hangover for beer, bangover for doom metal).

I’m like, a writing genius and shit.


  1. Rifformula, I like that.

    South of Salem bored me, despite my best intentions. I couldn’t more than a few tracks into Royal Thunder. I really can’t see the fuss about Christian Mistress.

    Beekeeper though is a cracker of a song. There’s so much going on and it actually has some density to the guitar sound. I might have to check out the album to see if it’s the first example of this much-acclaimed microgenre to actually make an impression on me.

    1. Like most microgenres, you’ve gotta be in the right mood, or it just won’t happen. Doom rarely puts you into the mood to hear it; you’ve gotta already be there, I think.

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