All Them Witches – Nothing as the Ideal (Album Review)

The genre-bending All Them Witches are set to release Nothing as the Ideal through New West Records on Friday, September 4, 2020.

A trio out formed in 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee, the band wasted little time putting their name out, releasing their debut Our Mother Electricity before the end of the year. A handful of lineup changes ensued, namely at the keyboard position, but the core trio of Charles Michael Parks Jr on bass/vocals, Robby Staebler on drums, and Ben McLeod on guitar/vocals continues today, and Nothing as the Ideal already marks their sixth album in their eight-year career.  

This all in mind, Nothing as the Ideal is nothing short of a rich, winding tapestry, rife with frayed edges that lead to adventurous detours. The album alternates between deep, long, languid trips and short, effervescent bursts. Instrumental statement “Everest” could slide into the thickest era of Jeff Buckley, while “Lights Out” stands out as a brash mission worthy of Mastodon, bookended by “41,” a song which dabbles in the throes of the nascent Death/Doom wave, and closer “Rats in Ruin,” which easily fits amongst the airier tracks of Spirit Adrift or Bell Witch. 

The closing track is one of two tracks that eclipse nine minutes; the other, “See You Next Fall,” is a warped landscape of epic proportions. On its face, the track seems to “go” nowhere, but the subtle effort of merging looping Stoner Rock-style guitar with the versatile monotone of Parks results in a lulling carpet ride on a tie-dyed patchwork quilt. “See You Next Fall” echoes the album writ large, if not the band itself: from one measure to the next, All Them Witches alternate between playing to tens of thousands in an arena or a few hundred in a cramped musty club, with the vibe genuine in either and every case. 

Mixed in with these celestial beings are two tracks heavy enough to walk the Metal path: “41” and especially “Lights Out” which, as noted, gives off a subtle Mastodon sound (as subtle as Mastodon can be); the two outfits opened for Primus back in 2018 and may have compared notes. “41,” on the other hand, uses the unique vocals of Parks to meld the grinding guitar of the opening and chorus with the light acoustic sound of the verses and bridge. Each of these combinations helps the album worm its way into your psyche, with the crux of each track exploding at an unexpected, joyous moment, but always delivered with an immediacy that makes the listener sit up and take notice. Athletes call this “active rest,” taking time to wind down from the trials of the day, but never quite sitting still, and  readily aware of the next round of hard work and (presumably) agony. 

Furthermore, “The Children of Coyote Women” pulls in some work by The Sword, particularly the more recent output (which in turns leans a bit toward Mark Knopfler). Parks again takes his voice and weaves it through the tightest turns, highest lifts, and lowest trenches, without breaking stride; even the audible crack halfway through sounds like it happened by design. The closing track, “Rats in Ruin,” is nine minutes of aural open-heart surgery, with the first five to six minutes spent at a slow simmer, before the track switches to full electric to truly haunt the listener with an unmentioned, but unmistakable, tale of woe and heartache. It may close Nothing as the Ideal on a dark note, but there should be no hesitation to repeat the album over and over again.

By mixing genres, emotions, and, frankly, attitudes, All Them Witches have created a masterpiece that will be talked about, and difficult to match, for years to come. That is why Cryptic Rock is pleased to give Nothing as the Ideal 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

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