Music

All Them Witches: Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

For all its variety, this is a damn fine rock album, plain and simple.


All Them Witches

Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2015-10-30
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

Sludgemasters All Them Witches return with a new slice of psychedelia

Nashville band All Them Witches provide a lot of fodder for music fans fond of hyper-categorization. They’ve been called drone, sludge, stoner doom, blues rock, and psychedelic rock, just to name a few subgenres. This pot-pourri (sorry) of styles goes to show that the band is anything but one-dimensional, cherry-picking bits of rock and roll history to incorporate into its world-engulfing swirl. To dismiss All Them Witches as “just” a stoner band, then, is to lump the group together with the likes of Sublime, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and whatever other splifftastic poster models your college roommate from 2003 probably still listens to. Dying Surfer Meets His Maker shows that the outfit is much more mature and complex than that.

“Call Me Star” enters with contemplative acoustic picking backed by powerful drums, and it slowly builds as Michael Parks Jr. whiskey-moans “everyone deserves a crown of light.” Closing with a gorgeous wall of reverb fuzz, the track announces that All Them Witches can craft soulful, acoustic-driven blues rock and shovel mountains of sludge metal in equal measure. “El Centro” delivers heavy, melodic bass playing reminiscent of doom duo Om, leavened by a mellow, spaced-out keyboard and that rarest of musical beasts, the well-integrated drum solo. Then the track dissolves in a sun-bleached haze.

“Dirt Preachers” injects some speed-punkish energy, then echoes with towering guitar riffs and raw vocals. The guitar playing here is bluesy and improvisational, skilled without being showy, and it elevates the track to celestial levels. “This Is Where It Falls Apart” strides heavily into blues territory, opening with a mournful harmonica melody that’s taken up by the guitar. Monotone vocals keep the song from edging into melodrama, though, providing a bleak counterpoint to the baroque, Zeppelin-esque instrumentation. Robby Staebler’s heavy hitting keeps the track feeling modern and gestures toward the band’s hard rock origins.

“Mellowing” is as folksy and elegiac as a ‘60s Nick Drake tune, an instrumental interlude that evokes lone guitars played by the light of dying embers on autumn nights. “Open Passageways” modernizes the folk feeling with electric instruments while adding some mournful Celtic strings, and “Instrumental 2 (Welcome to the Caveman Future)” delivers on the mind-expanding promise fans of previous albums have been waiting for. The unique fusion of blues and psychedelia offers a glimpse into a giddy musical samsara before just as quickly vanishing. “Talisman” develops these hypnotizing guitars and adds poetic vocals to craft a haunting, layered song that incorporates shades of everything from grunge to blooze.

“Blood and Sand/Milk and Endless Waters” is the windswept epic the album has been building toward, showing the band’s sense of drama. Parks intones verses about being “nestled in the bosom of creation” as ecstatic guitars (and a lone fiddle) weave a majestic tapestry. Even this track is relatively short, bowing out at a compact seven minutes where a more self-indulgent jam band might have noodled around for much longer. In an area of rock music (the word “genre” is tricky here) where it’s normal to expect extended, repetitive riffs and spotlight-hogging solos, All Them Witches show the value of restraint.

It’s easy (and fun) for music nerds to pick All Them Witches apart looking for sounds, genres, and influences—after all, they partake of so many, combined and recombined with sensitivity and intelligence. At the end of the day, though, Dying Surfer has to be taken on its own merits for what it is: a damn fine rock album.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.