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Album Review: WITCH MOUNTAIN Mobile of Angels

Posted by on October 14, 2014 at 5:31 pm

In a way, Witch Mountain are newborn babes in the world of American doom, having recorded a seldom-heard album called …Come the Mountain in 2001 – a record that really should be in the conversation when we're talking worst album art of all time – but then disappeared until re-emerging a decade later with South of Salem. Singer/calling card Uta Plotkin didn't join the group until 2009 herself, her bluesy blend of Allanah Myles ("Black Velvet") and Heart's Ann Wilson standing out memorably in a growing field of female singers still clinging tightly to traditional metal values. But now that Plotkin has announced that this is her last go-round with Witch Mountain, one can't help but pick over her finale with the band, Mobile of Angels, looking for signs of trouble.

The truth is there really aren't in. After jettisoning the more Southern Rock influences for 2012's Cauldron of the Wild, this new album is about as direct a continuation of that record as anyone could reasonably predict. Maybe that's the problem: on heavier tracks like "Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn)", Plotkin's more delicate croon presents little difficulty in hitting the high notes, yet it's a bit thin on the sheer force that the song requires, so it comes off far less powerful than it was no doubt intended. Contrast that with the moody ballad "The Shape Truth Takes", where Plotkin is allowed to bring her own sense of pathos to the material, and it becomes clear that the band is capable of writing to Plotkin's strengths; perhaps they just don't want to. At any rate they'll be looking for a new singer promptly, as Plotkin is moving on to other musical interests.

And so as a sort of last will and testament, there is no signs of burnout on Mobile of Angels. In fact, on opening track "Psycho Animundi" Plotkin struts confidently, only wavering when called upon to hit one of those Doro-esque wails. "Can't Settle" also coasts along unhurriedly over an escalating talking blues sass, eventually slowing to a point where demonic vocals are the only thing that seems appropriate. Like "Your Corrupt Ways", though, the simmering build up eventually dictates that Plotkin attempt a showstopping wail that she isn't quite capable of pulling off. To use a sports analogy, she's a finesse player, and the band too often require her to be a battering ram.

So it ends. It will be interesting to see where Plotkin next materializes. I for one hope she doesn't land in yet another symphonic/goth metal band – the world has enough of those already, and they collectively give off the false impression that women only belong in metal when they're allowed to sing "pretty" – but at the same time her talents would be underutilized in an outfit that required blunt strength brutality, so we'll just have to see what the future holds. Both for her, and for the remaining members of Witch Mountain as well. In the meantime, they've given us a worthy sendoff, even if it feels a little slight at five songs under 40 minutes.

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