Tuesday, 28 February 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: All Them Witches - "Sleeping through the War"

By: Victor Van Ommen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/02/2017
Label: New West Records

There’s a lot going on and much of the album will surprise those expecting a one-to-one follow up to “Dying Surfer Meets his Maker.” If you get it, “Sleeping through the War” is an album that will continue to grow.

“Sleeping through the War” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Bulls
2). Don’t Bring Me Coffee
3). Bruce Lee
4). 3-5-7
5). Am I Going Up?
6). Alabaster
7). Cowboy Kirk
8). Internet

The Review:

What a strange trip All Them Witches has been on. Their debut album, “Our Mother Electricity” is a classic stoner blues album but done in such a way that it found backing by Elektrohasch Records. You know, the same place that puts out all of the Colour Haze albums. ATW’s follow up, “Lightning at the Door” put the band on an independent mission to find more depth in their sound. This they did, and when their 2015 follow up “Dying Surfer Meets his Maker” was announced, we were all sure that the ’Witches were going to own this stoner-blues thing. Own it they did, though not in any sort of way that their fans were expecting. First off, they were signed to country-rock power house New West Records and secondly, they released an album that lacked focus but made up for it in spades with vibe. If the band’s schedule from the past two years – as well as my humble opinion - is anything to go by, this approach worked very, very well for them.

Just a few days ago, All Them Witches released their new album, “Sleeping through the War.” Anticipation is high on this one and with good reason. The question is, what will the band do now?

A jolty mix of the All Them Witches sonic palette opens up the album. A strange introduction, to say the least. Opener “Bulls” is as dreamy as it is riffy, almost forcibly playing the one off of the other. The song’s back half flies off the handle with a sturdy working of the keyboard which, admittedly, might take some getting used to. “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” follows “Bulls” as a rugged guitar rocker underscored by a slight cowboy theme.

At this point, the questions rising to the surface are - where are the jams? Where is the experimentation? Where is the band that made “Dying Surfer Meets His Maker”?

Just as “Dying Surfer Meets His Maker” jumped around in its opening three tracks, as does “Sleeping through the War.” So the sturdy “Bulls” or the catchy “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” shouldn’t scare anyone off because these two tracks don’t necessarily set the album’s tone. In fact, “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” may be a reference to the closing track on Can’s seminal album “Tago Mago.” And though the Can influence is not felt in this particular song, “Sleeping through the War”’s B-Side certainly shows how All Them Witches have been influenced by Can. So the fact that this cowboy-rocker shares its name with a krautrock jam, “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” might just be the song that sums up “Sleeping through the War” perfectly.

Before the Can influence is heard, though, All Them Witches jump on another riff rocker, “Bruce Lee.” The song rolls nicely – that’ll be a riff you’ll hear in a live setting a lot – and it complements the follow up “3-5-7-“accordingly. Here, All Them Witches focus on the loud-soft dynamic and in doing so, set the stage for a 20 minute live version of this song. To wit, it’s “3-5-7” that straddles Side A and Side B and therefore serves as the pivot point in the album’s sound.

Without ruining too many surprises, the following four songs can be lumped together as a 20 minute high. The subtleties in these songs make for a laid back vibe that reminds a bit of “Open Passageways” from the band’s 2015 outing. The Can influence is more apparent and the listening experience seems to be a logical next step for All Them Witches. The songs here -  “Am I Going Up,” “Alabaster,” “Cowboy Kirk,” and the back porch blues of “Guess I’ll Go Live on the Internet” - are rhythmically groovy and structurally free, a combination only All Them Witches can pull off without coming across as just another jam band.

With “Sleeping through the War,” All Them Witches have given us an album that’s more diverse than anything they’ve done until now. Though the variety on offer here detracts slightly from the album’s flow, these songs are ripe for analysis and repeated listens. There’s a lot going on and much of the album will surprise those expecting a one-to-one follow up to “Dying Surfer Meets his Maker.” If you get it, Sleeping through the War” is an album that will continue to grow. For those who aren’t immediately hooked, this album might be ignored. Only time will tell which of these two groups will be the loudest. In the meantime, All Them Witches seem happy doing what it is they want to do. Their energy is felt in these tunes so it’s obvious the band has made the album they wanted to make.

“Sleeping through the War” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook