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King Witch - Under the Mountain Award winner

King Witch
Under the Mountain
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 19 February 2018, 7:15 AM

I love Doom Metal.  I think I’ve said that before in reviewing other Doom releases but I just can’t seem to say it enough.  Over the last decade or so, I think modern Doom has grown so much because a lot of bands are able to look to the past for their influence but still differentiate themselves enough to not be SABBATH, CANDLEMASS, TROUBLE, or SAINT VITUS clones. The Scottish band KING WITCH fit nicely into this description.

I want to begin the review talking about the badass opening track but instead want to talk about their badass frontman…oops, frontwoman.  Unless I’m missing something, women singing Doom Metal is something that is few and far between.  Women, however, do seem to have this weird affect on metal fans of both genders: you either like female vocals or you hate them.  Where does that leave Laura?  It leaves her with plenty of fans because her voice is so grand, so inspiring and wonderful, anyone who likes vocalists will like her.  Her voice is so unique as well…it has a somewhat deep sound to it, almost a little husky at times.  She can get pretty high in the register but she doesn’t really go full falsetto.  It’s almost like her voice is just always on the verge of exploding….but when it does, instead of exploding outward, it comes out in one full concentrated power that could level mountains.  She is a classic rock, old school doom vocalist with the power of Hansi from BLIND GUARDIAN.  Instead of sounding like she is standing up on a mountain, she is the actual mountain.

The album opens with a fucking sinister guitar riff from Jamie Gilchrist.  I really enjoyed his playing throughout the album. Not only is he a riff master but he isn’t afraid to up the temp a bit with his riffs or make everything sound like the old school bands I mentioned earlier.  It is definitely doomy, and at times thrashy, but he never sounds like a rip off of anyone before him.  The ending of the song is really nice, a great solo that fills up the void while it is being surrounded by Lyle Brown’s very capable drumming. The next track, “Carnal Sacrifice,” is one of the faster tracks, somewhat out of left field after the opening track. However, the groove contained without the riffs is unmistakably Doom.  I really like how Simon Anger’s bass really sort of springs out from the riffs.  Making his presence known under the sonic attack of both the riffs and Laura’s vocal attacks is impressive as it is rewarding for the listener.

Production wise, the album could be a lot better as far as Laura’s voice is concerned. As I hopefully established, she is one hell of a vocalist.  However, she isn’t always up front in the mix enough but that might be a good thing, in some ways, because the weird vocal effect on her voice is very annoying. I don’t know if it’s done on purpose or not, but there is an odd echo on everything she says, as if she is shouting from inside a cave. I would love to see (hear) what she would be capable of if she could sing dry or without too many effects.  However, in terms of the bass and drums, everything sounds great.  The drums are clear and crisp; the bass is appropriately loud enough to hear without blowing out any speakers or coming off as just a constant thump.

“Ancients,” is a nice surprise because its acoustic, which is a style that always seems to work with Doom. Much like AGALLOCH, none of their dark sound or atmosphere is lost when the heavy riffs go away.  Rather, the stripped down sound, bluesy in its approach, highlights Laura’s vocals and the band’s ability to work her, to let her shine, while still retaining the utmost musical composure. “Hunger,” brings the band back to the Metal with one of the best songs on the album.  The riffs are so dense and heavy…the song is almost hypnotic and I found myself lost (in a good way) while jamming this one. “Possession,” finds the band going full speed metal.  I suppose it is somewhat out of place, as the temp is even more aggressive than the “Carnal Sacrifice.” However, the band’s track marks: stupid awesome riffs, penetrating bass, rumbling drums, and soaring vocals remain in tack.  In the end, what more could you want from that description?

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Beneath The Waves
2. Carnal Sacrifice
3. Solitary
4. Under The Mountain
5. Approaching The End
6. Ancients
7. Hunger
8. Possession
9. Black Dog Blues
Lineup:
Laura Donnelly – Vocals
Jamie Gilchrist – Guitar
Simon Anger – Bass
Lyle Brown – Drums
Record Label: Listenable Records
     


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