With their new long player ‘Dying Surfer Meets His Maker’, Nashville four piece All Them Witches have stepped up to be everything their almost legendary live sets suggest. Mining the likes of early Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and the like, they’ve imposed their own brand of hard/slacker-rock, tripped out psych-blues on that template, and decorate it with thoughtful and often surprising songwriting to make something that’s at the forefront of leftfield rock music right now.
One of the most impressive things about the record is it authenticity, rather than the digitised plasticity that seems the norm these days. The band recorded the album mostly live in a studio in Pigeon Forge Tennessee overlooking Dollywood, and it shows with the occasional crackle of the equipment and the slap of the guitar string.
Opener ‘Call me Star’ gently opens the record, all countryf(r)ied fingerpicked guitars and sighing slide as it gradually builds – the edge of the electric guitars showing themselves before finally coming to the fore, without altering the gentle sauntering of the tempo, or ever rushing Charles Michael Parks, Jr’s minimal, Robert Plant like vocal. Follow on ‘El Ctentro’ is a more immersive prospect. Driven on by Robby Staebler’s (fantastic throughout) pulsating drumming, its an eight minute drone-psych out, the motorik of the bass and the wisps of organ the framework for feedback filled layers of guitars which fuzz everything out and alternatively soar over the top.
Dirt Preachers is a ominous, freak out blues – the guitars now violent, vibrant, all consuming but without the meandering of its predecessor, this definitely has direction – in fact its racing towards it for the first half, before reaching it, a tempo cut as it happens where it wallows till its conclusion. ‘This is where its at’ continues at the slow blues, with harmonica soaking through and the moog-like organ giving it some swagger while it gently ebbs and flows.
Elsewhere, Mellowing is just that as these acoustic guitars ripple over an arid, echoey, almost eerie instrumental while Open Passageway nods towards freak-country/folk as it gradually unfurls decorated by Allan Van Cleave’s violin that gives us a sense of an old-time jig, as the cymbals splash over the top of everything. The driving freak out of ‘Instrumental 2 (welcome to the caveman future) gives way to the Country folk of one of the albums definitive highlights, Talisman. Its a beautiful, lilting almost Midlake kind of number that gradually builds to something (and I use this word with reservation, but I can’t think of a better one) epic. Album closer Blood and Sand / Milk and Endless Waters closes things in fine style with this twisting, morphing, rocking number.
It’s one hell of an album.
Dying Surfer meets his Maker is out now on New West Records.