[DOOM METAL] In the late ’70s, the musical movement known as the “new wave of British heavy metal” was born. Inspired by the trudging blues of bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath—as well as the hard fury of the punk scene—this version of metal was faster and angrier than its contemporaries, and given to flights of lyrical and instrumental fancy.
The acts that rode this wave—Iron Maiden, Motörhead and Saxon, among them—begat every strain of metal that you heard growing up and that is still with us today: glam, technical, stoner, black, doom, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
Whether you realize it or not, there’s a similar groundswell happening around our neck of the woods. Oregon and Washington have spawned a ridiculous number of ridiculously talented bands (call it the new wave of Northwest heavy metal) that are following the thread strung along by their British forebears and pushing the genre in audacious new directions. And the impact of recent work by Portland bands like Agalloch, Rabbits and Red Fang (as well as Christian Mistress, Helms Alee and Throne of Bone from up north) is starting to be felt worldwide.
One group, in particular—doom metal quartet Witch Mountain—has the very real potential to be the leading force among this current crop of acts. National and international press is calling for interviews. NPR is going to showcase a song from the band’s new album. Fans are still raving about the group’s fantastic set at this year’s SXSW festival. And it only took Witch Mountain 14 years to get to this point.
“We released our last album, Come the Mountain, in 2001,” remembers founding guitarist Rob Wrong, “and we just got sidetracked. I used to be married and had a couple of kids. [Bassist] Dave [Hoopaugh] had a daughter. Dave and I spent time doing Iommi Stubbs, the other band that we were in. So, that delayed things for six or seven years.”
Witch Mountain is ready to take its rightful place in the spotlight with the release of its second LP, South of Salem. Having had 10 years to hone its attack, the band (which also features WW contributor Nathan Carson on drums) is an unyielding force that slowly oozes out of the speakers, carrying jagged riffs and trudging rhythms that stretch on for upward of 12 minutes per song. It’s not hyperbolic in the least to tag the album as “epic.”
The weight of the music is being carried by the band’s most powerful force: vocalist Uta Plotkin. The 29-year-old gives Salem a bluesy edge (both Carson and Wrong compared her to Ann Wilson of the Seattle classic-rock act Heart) that helps separate Witch Mountain from the rest of the growling, screeching doom metal fray.
Now that Witch Mountain’s new album is seeing the light of day, the plan is to “get serious again,” Carson says. He says his band is ready to ride its momentum even as it shifts to a more uptempo sound. “I just want to see where we go now that people are taking us seriously again. I regret that we didn’t create a bigger body of work over the last 10 years, but those albums wouldn’t have had Uta on them. I don’t want albums that don’t have her on them. That’s our sound now.”
SEE IT: Witch Mountain plays Backspace on Saturday, April 9, with Wizard Rifle, Nether Regions and Rabbits. 8 pm. $7. All ages.