King Witch – Under the Mountain (2018) REVIEW

After a decade of cutting their teeth in Firebrand Super Rock the incredible duo of songwriter/guitarist/producer Jamie Gilchrist and vocalist Laura Donnelly have channeled their perfected blend of stoner doom and epic heavy metal vocals into King Witch‘s  colossal debut full-length. The doom/thrash ‘Turn Back Trilobyte’ vibe of Firebrand Super Rock‘s 2013 album ‘Born For the Gallows’ has been somewhat polished out of King Witch’s sound but Gilchrist‘s warm, Orange Goblin-esque production and thundering doom riffs transcend all previous work. ‘Under the Mountain’ is unmercifully heavy and memorable in it’s hugely accessible tribute to classic heavy metal, stoner rock, and doom metal.

If you’re not hearing Donnelly’s voice for the first time on ‘Under the Mountain’ then you already know she is one of the most talented metal/rock vocalists out there today. Gilchrist’s writing on this record reaches into the epic drama of 80’s Candlemass for atmosphere and Donnelly’s layered, sky-scraping vocals often pull from Messiah Marcolin and Dio in equal measure. She was already imposing on King Witch’s ‘Shoulders of Giants’ EP a few years ago, but ‘Under the Mountain’ is absolutely an achievement.

‘Under the Mountain’ isn’t simply another genre patch for stoner doom / epic heavy metal’s worn out jean jacket. Gilchrist’s songwriting soul-searches it’s way beyond cranked 70’s rock, 80’s doom and 90’s sludge/stoner riffing at least far enough to not resemble a cheaply retro-obsessed recreation society effort. His songs give nods to influences rather than relish in resemblance too often. The tracklist is dynamic and no two similar songs sit side-by-side; it would have been easy to toss “Solitary” alongside “Hunger” and front-load the album with Donnelly’s more passionate, thoughtful moments but spacing them across the full listen of ‘Under the Mountain’ is more effective. No great rock or metal record flows together so well without this high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail.

I’m almost afraid of getting too excited about this album and doing a damn track-by-track for it, but I have to fanboy over a few songs that just struck me like lightning. Obviously the opener “Beneath the Waves”, a healthy reminder of the consequence(s) of manifest destiny, is a big meaty doom punch that rumbles as hard as Witchcraft‘s biggest moments and trails off with a Crowbar worthy outro riff. “Solitary” shows off a warm and foreboding heavy psych side of King Witch that centers around a riff that simultaneously resembles and outclasses what Pale Divine were doing on their third album. “Approaching the End” channels the melodrama of existential dread as well as the creeping heavy metal of ‘Nightfall’; “Possession” uses that same sonic inspiration but kicks it up leading into ‘Energetic Disassembly’-like thrashing heavy metal storm of “Black Dog Blues”. Despite some huge standouts every track feels absolutely necessary on ‘Under the Mountain’ and as a result the album retains it’s value across several listens.

I’ve had to make a concerted effort to keep my hype-beast under control for a couple of weeks because I had such a strong positive reaction upon first hearing ‘Under the Mountain’. My enthusiasm for the album has actually grown as I sat and mulled over my thoughts while continually finding replay value in it. The guitar driven mix of stoner rock, doom metal and traditional heavy metal coming from King Witch on ‘Under the Mountain’ is a modern day classic and a muddy brick to the face of anyone not-so-sold on the power of female vocalists in heavy metal.

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Artist King Witch
Type Album
Released February 9, 2017
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Genres

‘Til everything dies. 4.5/5.0

 

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