All Them Witches – Nothing as the Ideal

5 out of 5

Label: New West

Produced by: Mikey Allred

So… damned… epic… without seeming like they’re trying to be epic.

All Them Witches are the low-key stoner rockers in a fairly crowded scene; while many in their camp are trying to get louder or add intensity in various fashions, ATW latch on to the slow-roll, and an almost avoidance of drawn-out carnage or soloing, floating along with a country drawl and shuffling into the most head-bobbing hooks and deep melodies. Michael Parks, Jr.’s vocals have always had a soothing intensity to them – emotive in a whisper – which he’s gotten better and better at modulating, with his work on Nothing as the Ideal down to the most minute variations that offer so, so much. Mikey Allred’s warm production blends the slides and shifts from acoustics to distortion majestically; you’re tapping your toe while the group plays in a quiet bar, or the crowd is in a lighter-waving hush in a stadium. Drums kick but also fade; music layers and layers but it’s all so crisp and clear…

There’s no difference – in a good way – between the group doing a 3-minute rocker (Enemy of My Enemy) or a 3-minutes of something more contemplative and emotive (The Children of Coyote Women), or grinding on some chugga chugga riffs for 5-minutes (41) and laying it all on the line for 7- or 9-minute stretches (Saturnine & Iron Jaw; See You Next Fall); it’s all part of the same picture, sharing DNA. The lines are clear, though, and you know when we’ve transitioned from a song to an interstitial. The haunting, reverb-soaked Rats in Ruin stands apart, tonally, but this works as a concluding track, and appropriately comes after the most direct song on the album – the blazing Lights Out.

Stoner rock, for me, tends to hit hard and then dissipate immemorably, or groups tend to function in an always-on mode, allowing any given track to bloat, which can be impressive, but also exhausting. ATW sidle in from the side and perhaps don’t immediately impress with any absolutely showy or unique element – they can do it all, and do so without bravado – but it has proven to be such a solid formula, balanced from the start, and now pretty much perfected with this album.