All Them Witches, Paddles on the Heart of Rock
Amidst the surge of innovation and experimentation in the previous decade, the number of bands putting out a true-to-roots, rockin’ sound pale in comparison to the those who’ve embraced a more modern and electronically influenced style. While it’s expected that music will follow the trends of the age, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find a band with an atypical sound, particularly one worth a full album’s listen.
Now that a band can record a decent sounding album without the assistance and influence of a label, we find ourselves with more styles and artists to sort through than ever before, but the standouts can truly grab you by the shoulders and scream in your face, “Remember me? I’m rock and I’m still here!”
At every renaissance—musical or otherwise— there have been those who push the boundaries—manifesting into existence the previously unimaginable, and those who hone what once was. So while you’ve got the likes of Death Grips, whose raucous, sludgy, stoner-metal riffs are punctuated by dub-bass wobbles, Daft Punk is busy dragging us back to the ‘70s and funking up our lives. The innovation and creativity build on each other in an endless feedback loop of stylistic evolution. It’s both amazing and daunting. Then in walks All Them Witches who took a step back and chose to build on the foundations that the greats of rock left behind.
While ATW’s influence from the likes of Zeppelin is obvious, it remains merely influence. The band isn’t trying to sound like Sabbath or Zeppelin, yet the swampy, delta-blues grit is familiar. Call it the triangulated center between Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the Melvins.
Call it the triangulated center between Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the Melvins.
The release of Dying Surfer Meets His Maker in 2015 showed us a less gritty, refined, and more ethereal side of the Witches’ songwriting that relies heavily on instrumentation, while the previous Our Mother Electricity (2012) and Lightning at the Door (2014) really just grab you by the balls. Tasteful production highlights and refines their maturing sound and builds on the band’s live energy.
Frontman, bassist, and vocalist Michael Parks Jr. croons with a primal fervor that’s at once apathetic and intense; it conveys a sort of desperate I-don't-give-a-fuck sentiment. Backed by punchy yet tribal drums and Ben McLeod’s howling, spacey guitar lines, ATW brings something the electronic movement just can’t touch or replicate. Songs like “Elk.Blood.Heart” show the band’s dark lamenting style and are reminiscent of moonlit ceremonies, ancient and pagan. Instrumental tracks like “Romany Dagger” are evocative of gypsy parties in the woods some centuries past. It’s beautiful, and their elegance and simplicity is requisite of this. It reminds us that certain sentiments can’t be captured by anything but a classic, four-piece rock band.
The countless new sub-genres and sub-sub-genres reflect and confirm what we all know: everything changes and nothing stands still. New styles evolve as quickly as the technology that enables their existence, and a new level of accessibility of music that was previously unimaginable. Though amidst all this change it’s possible, still, to find something new, yet familiar, in a troupe of guys from Nashville playing Rock ’n’ Roll.