By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A fixture on the northwestern metal scene since first emerging in Portland, Oregon, during the late 1990s, acclaimed doom quartet Witch Mountain has created a compelling body of work in the past two decades.
Formed in 1997 by guitarist/singer Rob Wrong and drummer Nate Carson, the group would run through a revolving door of bass players over the course of its formative years. Despite the turnover, the band still managed to put together its Homegrown Doom demo in 1999 that showcased a knack for catchy, Sabbath-informed tunes and Wrong’s corrosive guitar attack.
The band’s self-released debut …Come the Mountain in 2001 further refined and expanded the band’s sound, delving into a more extended prog-tinged workout on the multi-part epic “The Scientist’s” to close out the album’s doom-laden heaviness. It would also point towards a future direction with the inclusion of guest vocalist Erica Stoltz (at the time a member of established San Francisco metal power trio Lost Goat) on “A Power Greater.” While Wrong was a capable singer, the contrast of female vocals with crushing riffs struck a chord with the band that would later come to fruition.
Witch Mountain would go on an extended hiatus the following year as members focused on family, work and other music projects for the better part of the decade. The band resurfaced in 2009 and with new lead singer Uta Plotkin adding her powerful, soaring vocals to the group’s fuzzed-out, doom-metal template. The band’s long-awaited second album South of Salem tracked with noted producer Billy Anderson (Sleep, Orange Goblin, Melvins) put Witch Mountain on the map as a force to be reckoned with.
The band went on a creative tear that made up for the years of silence, putting out an EP and two more acclaimed albums — Cauldron of Wild in 2012 and Mobile of Angels two years later — that established the band as one of the leading lights of Northwestern doom alongside heavyweights YOB, Anciients and Lesbian. When Plotkin announced her amiable departure ahead of a final tour after the release of Mobile of Angels, there were some concerns about how the band would continue without her indelible voice.
Luckily, Witch Mountain landed on its feet after then 19-year-old singer Kayla Dixon submitted a video audition and was quickly brought into the fold. Possessing a potent voice, musical theater training and a love for metal, Dixon brought her own style to the quartet. She learned the band’s back catalog and Witch Mountain toured extensively to showcase their new singer to fans before recording their first effort with her, a 2016 two-song 12″ single.
Last year, the group released another song as part of the Adult Swim single series, the thunderous “Midnight,” which would be the opening song on the band’s diverse new self-titled album that became available in May. Ranging from the extended doom workouts “Nighthawk” and the previously issued “Burn You Down” to the stately, mostly acoustic interlude “Hellfire” and a ultra-heavy recasting of the Spirit song “Mechanical World,” the effort has been widely hailed as Witch Mountain’s crowning achievement so far. The group brings its tour to promote the new album to the Bottom of the Hill on Thursday, July 12, sharing the stage with San Francisco’s own celebrated doom power trio Brume and opening dream/doom duo Callow.
Thursday, July 12, 8:30 p.m. $12-$15
Bottom of the Hill