King Witch - Under the Mountain

King Witch Under the Mountain cover
King Witch
Under the Mountain
Listenable Records
Further supplementing my knack for “witch” suffixed metal – a Twisted P. coinage! – is Edinburgh, Scotland’s King Witch, a heavily swinging female fronted occult doom metal outfit which, unlike its molasses thick brethren (i.e.Windhand, Haunted and Deathbell) or distinctively rock-ish underlings (think Death Penalty, Psychedelic Witchcraft and Ruby The Hatchet), mixes the best of both Worlds tempo and intensity wise. In other words, the nine varying tracks forming its full-length debut, “Under the Mountain” (released last month under the aptly titled Listenable Records), thickly ebb and flow from one to the next, in the process making the listener feel like they’re languidly caroming over valleys and peaks, all the while reveling in the quartet’s high priestess evoking vocalist, Laura Donnelly, who brings to mind a huskier and much more drawling (as well as sinister) Ann Wilson or, for want of recent comparisons, Substratum’s Amy Lee Carlson and Tower’s Sarabeth Linden.
Effectively, the woman’s got lungs, as attested by the gripping and ominous, church-bell tolling opener, “Beneath the Waves”, and succeeding satyric humdinger, “Carnal Sacrifice”, which has me envision a diurnal black mass at Stonehenge beneath a blazing and unforgiving Sun. As inferred by prior reviews, Donnelly’s soulful albeit liberal wails ride high atop the mountainous, at times barreling guitar/bass riffs courtesy of Jamie Gilchrist and Joe Turner, whilst Lyle Brown is the man behind the frenetic onslaught of slam-bashing skins. That said, aside from the virulent, fast-pace riff-age and beats of “Under the Mountain” proper – an astounding and uncanny dead-ringer for Wolf’s “In the Shadow of Steel” from its 2000 titular debut – I prefer the more brooding/doom-ier tracks such as “Beneath the Waves” and “Hunger” as opposed to the downright astringent and slapdash closers (i.e. the last two tracks), which I feel detract from the album’s overall appeal as they seem to literally fall off the edge of the map, or rather, charge into the ether like a defective satellite to be written off and lost forever. Their ungainly thrashing rhythms, along with Donnelly’s higher pitched, strung-out caws, awkwardly clash with the earlier songs’ spirited and accessible appeal. On the other hand, they provide Brown with an opportunity to completely unhinge himself from his moorings and fully elaborate on his energetic command of the drum kit.
Still, had things simply ended with the chilled out and sanguinely waltzing cabaret noir styled “Ancients”, as well as the bouncily revolving and bass heavy “Hunger”, I’d hold the band in even higher esteem. Nevertheless, I readily dig what I hear so far. In fact, should the rumours hold true, King Witch’s three-tracked 2015 EP, “Shoulders of Giants”, also makes for essential listening even if it’s considered less brazen and brash than “Under the Mountain” (if anything, it equally conveys the band’s synergy alongside its individual members’ blooming skills).
The bottom line is, if, as I, you’re feeling peckish about the next female fronted doom band to slide on your plate (i.e. yearn for un-Windhand-ish vibes), rest assured you can’t go wrong with Scotland’s King Witch – I’d bet the farm, er, coven on it!