Having first caught them in early 2016 when Edinburgh’s King Witch headlined an intimate gig at London’s 12 Bar Club, I’ve been keen to see where this band’s fortunes would lie. They only started life in 2015 and with one EP, “Shoulders Of Giants” against their name, they now come armed with their first long player, “Under The Mountain”. Live, they are a powerful sight, especially vocally so even at this relatively tender part of their career, there’s a sense of expectancy for some big tunes.
King Witch are rooted in the classic 70’s hard rock and proto metal sounds but are definitely not slaves to it. The punch and grit of opener “Beneath The Waves” is testament to that. Fat, gutsy old fashioned heavy metal without airs or graces, it has a nice live feel. Hot on the heels is “Carnal Sacrifice” which is a fast paced groover, roughened up Orange Goblin style. More contemporary stoner metal sounds continue to creep in on the likes of title track, “Under The Mountain” with its’ delicious, pile driving urgency.
The bluesy, acoustic “Ancients” mixes Led Zeppelin richness with some of the more reflective styled moments from Black Sabbath’s “13” and prove to be a lovely vehicle for Laura Donnelley’s considerable vocal talents which only seem to grow stronger as the album progresses. Her range at times is jaw dropping and has an almost boundless power that lifts these tracks. The blues driven element continues into “Hunger” but the heavy swagger has returned. Jamie Gilchrist’s biting guitar and elegant soloing give this track a warm gravity and is an absolute belter. The band serve up a sharp, one-two punch to finish off; “Possession”, with a battle cry drum intro with gritty riffs, gallops along in a way that is sure to please fans of Iron Maiden. High drama at a dizzying pace, it’s a very bass driven number courtesy of Joe Turner before the shuffling “Black Dog Blues”. Keith Moon style drumming from Lyle Brown give it a crazy, entrancing quality that shows off the tightness of the band. There’s a progressive, slightly Mastodon feel but far dirtier and thicker that ensures the heart rate stays high right up until the end of the album.
“Under The Mountain” is an impressive debut that certainly gives the impression that the band has a lot more experience than their bio suggests. There’s some quality musicianship on display but, oh my goodness- those vocals are worth the price of admission alone.
(7/10 Johnny Zed)