The past decade has been one of the most successful and fulfilling periods in the nearly 21-year existence of doom metal band Witch Mountain. But it’s also been a stretch of time filled with changes both massive and modest.
The most impactful development in recent years was the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin in 2014. The diminutive yet powerful singer made an amicable split with the band to try her hand at other musical endeavors. That kind of transition would be monumental for any project, but it felt especially big for Witch Mountain as Plotkin’s resounding vocals were central to the success of their last three albums.
Rather than halt the momentum they had picked up since 2009, guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nate Carson took on the daunting task of seeking a replacement, sending an instrumental version of their song “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour The Hymn)”—a 10-minute slow burner that appeared on Plotkin’s final album with the band—to a few people to record vocals over. One of those tryouts came from Kayla Dixon, a young singer from the D.C. area.
“It wasn’t a note-for-note recreation,” Wrong remembers, “but it was incredible, soulful. With Uta, we felt like we won the lottery. And with Kayla it felt like we won the lottery twice, which is near impossible.”
Dixon slipped right into the frontwoman role with ease, commanding even more attention in concert with her sinuous stage moves as she shut down any concerns about her following in her predecessor’s footsteps, quickly putting them to rest thanks to her enrapturing vocals that slip from siren-like entreaties to full-throated growls.
With Dixon’s input, Witch Mountain are now in the midst of another creative peak, as evidenced by the recent release of their latest album, a self-titled collection out on the Finnish imprint Svart Records. While there may only be five songs on Witch Mountain, that is more than enough to make an impact. The epic-length “Nighthawk,” for example, starts off with a few simple bass notes before the rest of the band emerges from the shadows, summoning a psychedelic spirit. From there, the band turns monstrous, with Wrong’s guitar work gushing and oozing out in distorted heaps.
Unlike nearly all of their previous releases, this new record was a truly collaborative effort. In the past, Wrong has been the one laboring over all of the music, demoing all the parts in his home studio before bringing his bandmates into the discussion. On Witch Mountain, however, he ceded control to Carson, Dixon and bassist Justin Brown, all of whom co-wrote the album’s intoxicating ballad “Hellfire.”
“I think Nate was feeling a little left out of the last few albums,” Wrong admits. “I usually just kind of do it and hand it off and say, ‘This is what it is. Learn it.’ I mean, it’s been working okay so far.”
Even as they stare down the coming year of touring and look ahead to taking another big step forward in their collective pursuits, Witch Mountain still have challenges to face. None of the band’s members can devote all of their energy to it, with Carson working as a booking agent for other metal and darkwave acts and Wrong balancing this band, his day job in music marketing, and playing guitar with another active heavy rock group, The Skull. It’s a tough juggling act, but after two decades, it’s clear that nothing will halt Witch Mountain on their slow path to metal glory.
“We’ve always had this attitude that we have to keep going,” Wrong says. “As long as the music is getting better and more developed, people just can’t ignore you forever if you keep plugging away at it and show dedication.”