Solid stoner rock fused with psychedelic ambience
All Them Witches, a rock band formed in 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee, are back on track with their sixth studio album, Nothing as the Ideal. Despite a brief lineup update from a four-piece to a trio in 2018, the band manages to further evolve their psychedelic sound and atmosphere from their previous and first single “1X1” recorded as a trio.
Nothing as the Ideal was released on September 4th, 2020, featuring Charles Michael Parks, Jr. on lead vocal and bass, Ben McLeod on guitar and Robby Staebler on drums. Recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios with producer Mikey Allred, this 44-minute long album, composed of eight tracks, provides a turbulent, yet ethereal journey.
“Saturnine & Iron Jaw” is an exceptional lead-off track. The development from an ominous intro to McLeod’s soothing guitar noodling is compelling. Followed by a series of crunchy, Tool-esque riffs, the song is addictive. The second track “Enemy of My Enemy” bombards the listener with ferocious riffs and chaotic meter changes. The three vibrant solos are reminiscent of the ’70s, yet they are revitalized with modern tones. As exhibited in past recordings, McLeod retains traces of Tony Iommi’s playing style. “Everest” is a brief, nostalgia-inducing instrumental that serves as a bridge from “Enemy of My Enemy” to “See You Next Fall.” Like the first track, “See You Next Fall” also has an ominous intro, but stranger. Although it is slower and lacks energy compared to the first two tracks (apart from the ending of the track), Parks’s groovy bassline lays the foundation to its heaviness.
“The Children of Coyote Woman” is a sequel to “Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at the Door (2013), which is a sequel to “The Marriage of Coyote Woman” (also from the same album), completing the “Coyote Woman” trilogy. Despite numerous references to lightning (hint: refers back to Lightning at the Door) and hurricanes, the gentleness and purity of the music create a transcendental world. The subtle chord progression played by the piano signifies that the trilogy would not be complete without an instrument that has been present in the past two songs of the trilogy.
“41” is one of the more dark and despairing songs off the album. The alternation of fiery riffs, heavenly harmonizations of the guitars and bass, and dissonant arpeggios of the guitar are simply enjoyable to listen to. The next piece, “Lights Out,” carries a similar feel, except heavier and structurally more straightforward. The album concludes with “Rats in Ruin,” which both lyrically and musically sound melancholy. Skipping the first half of the piece may be understandable, but the last two minutes and forty seconds is a must-hear. McLeod’s heartfelt solo is phenomenal, and this is further reinforced by Staebler’s forceful drumming.
Overall, the sound production is solid and there are nice varieties of psychedelic, gloomy, heavy, bluesy and cathartic compositions. Regarding individual instruments, the drums are tight, the bass is deep and resonant, the guitars are vibrant and the vocals are mesmerizing. All three members contributed greatly to well-rounded sound production. However, for the sake of fluidity and completeness, “Everest” would be better suited as the final track, while “Enemy of My Enemy” should have been swapped with “See You Next Fall.” This way, the listener would not expect the entire album to be filled with heavy metal-esque music, and a balance between heavy songs and lighter songs would be established. “Everest” would be perfect to end the album since it evokes a sense of nostalgia.
Although listening through Nothing as the Ideal requires patience, listening through each track nonstop provides a distinct, psychedelic experience. As far as the band’s direction is concerned, they are going for more riff-oriented songs, yet there are elements in every song that do not confine them to a particular genre. This has been the case since the formation of the band, and it looks like the band is still developing their identity without being associated with a few select genres.
With their relatively new lineup, their next album seems even more promising. Despite the untimely departure of the band’s original and longtime keyboardist, Allan Van Cleave, the fresh three-piece formation has shown that each individual member is capable of conjuring a variety of sounds, compositional structures and musical styles through their genuine musicianship.