Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Difficult 2012—Part Two

Part Two of Five...

Witch Mountain—Cauldron of the Wild (Profound Lore)
2012 was a good year for female vocalists, and none made a stronger impression than Witch Mountain’s Uta Plotkin. What a voice! And how refreshing it was to hear someone sing with such operatic clarity overtop some grungy blues-doom. Singers like Plotkin usually get snapped up by power metal bands, but her voice offers much more than bombast. When she takes it down on “Never Know” there some old-soul Janis Joplin vibes at work too. Cauldron of the Wild was an original brew; a clutch of affecting songs without immediate peer or precedent. Maybe that’s a rash statement—of course there’s decades of moody heavy rock that came before this—but there’s not a single moment on this album that made me go, “Oh, they’re one of those bands.” There’s a loud, proud freak flag flying from the summit of Witch Mountain.

Evoken—Atra Mors (Profound Lore)
Evoken’s fifth album turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Sorry, I mean , it turned out to precipitate a drastic plunge into gloom and despair. But the ultra-doom of Atra Mors does let a bit of light in—there’s a sliver of sunlight leaking into this dungeon. The quintet works with elements of the classic Peaceville sound, evoking Birmingham or damp Yorkshire rather than their New Jersey home. Clean guitars and synths drape the crawling doom riffs, and spoken-word passages provide emotional connection amidst the death growls. Every element enhances the drama and grandeur on the most majestic out-and-out heavy metal album I heard all year.

Six Organs of Admittance—Ascent (Drag City)
Ben Chasny teamed up with his Comets On Fire bandmates for Ascent, and the results are naturally more exuberant while still maintaining the SOoA spirit. There are still some crackling, electric songs that crank up the amps and dial down the acoustic introspection. “Waswasa” in particular is an ecstatic slice of rock ‘n’ roll, with the kind of riff you can jam on all day. The psych gets a little intense on “One Thousand Birds” and “Even If You Knew” as well. These songs are loose and open ended, with wild guitar solos out the wazoo—the sound of a band going for that “hot take.” Amidst all this is “Your Ghost,” just guitar and voice on a song as lovely as you’ll ever hear.

Goat—World Music (Rocket Recordings)
Where did these people come from and what are they on? The sleeve is patterned like a tribal blanket, offering no clues to the devilry/revelry within, save for the olde English “GOAT” typeface, which hinted that there was a bit of evil going on. Goat originated in Sweden, apparently, where someone thought it’d be a good idea to get a band together to make some kind of psychedelic afrobeat music. That must have been a strange, compelling Musicians Wanted ad. They sound out of time, beyond any instantly grasped genre. Yet they were instantly liked by anyone who heard them, and became a real breakout act for Rocket Recordings.

Mares of Thrace—The Pilgrimage (Sonic Unyon)
This spindly, twitching Brundlefly of a record improved on their promising debut in every aspect. Reviewed in full here.

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