This Charming Man Records
28 October 2013
by Pete Long
A really cynical man might suggest that Mountain Witch picked their name to benefit from any potential confusion with Witch Mountain. It doesn’t help that both bands exist in the broad spectrum of doom metal. Mountain Witch’s Cold River isn’t entirely comfortable with that label though – if you were to describe the album, the second from the Hamburg-based trio, in two words, then those two words would be “Seventies Homage”.
In particular, this release will remind people of Black Sabbath. Opening track ‘Snake Wand’ has only been playing for 36 seconds before a dirty, rumbling riff kicks in, a riff that would have been perfectly at home on any early Sabbath album. The album only really comes to life though with ‘Shrubbery the Warlock’ and the detuned groove of Rene Sitte’s guitar. Sitte’s work makes up the meat of this album. Sometimes it is cold and downbeat, sometimes it is almost jaunty; it usually gets the head nodding of its own volition. Drummer Rene Roggmann and bassist Tobert Knopp add the skeleton and fill out the space left. Roggmann sings as well, his voice lonely and distant sounding. It all adds up to a dark, cold, slightly spaced-out vibe.
When they get it right, it seems as though there might be no end of memorable moments on Cold River. The drifting, haunted memory of ‘Once I Am King’ features some great vocals and cymbal-work from Roggmann. Sitte’s acidic hooks in the album’s title track, and the solo in ‘The Covey’ show his full range of skill. The bluesy strut of Knopp’s intro to ‘Sleepers Chant’ is nothing but fun.
However, they arguably let their musicianship down with their songwriting. Too often, passages go on for too long, or a fitting climax never arrives. They build and build, but a knockout punch never comes. That’s a forgivable flaw though. The corrosive groove on display overpowers that. Catchy and retro (much like the bubonic plague), Mountain Witch deserve to make a lot of new friends with Cold River.
Sounds Like: A more sinister version of Black Sabbath
Standout Tracks: Once I Am King, Cold River, Sleepers Chant