All Them Witches - Sleeping Through the War - (9.5/10)
Published on February 24, 2017
When you think of Nashville, you think of blues and country because that’s why most people live or go there. What you don’t think of is four dudes playing an incredibly unique fusion of blues, 60s psychedelia, hard rock and stoner rock with a Southern drawl to it that can only come from being in that environment. You don’t expect it but that is exactly what you get with All Them Witches. They have been creating and refining this amazing fusion since 2012’s Our Mother Electricity and they keep getting better with each successive album. So what is in store for the listener on this newest effort, Sleeping Through the War?
This album builds on ATW’s established sound with ethereal guitar melodies, pleasant but ultimately haunting 70s inspired keyboard melodies, and blazing guitar riffs beefed up by fuzzy bass riffs that will send you over the moon. It sounds like a lot but that is just the tremendous opener “Bulls.” The rest of the album is every bit as intricate and incredible as its opening track. That also does not even touch on the incredible drumming on this album. Whether it is driving fills or extremely creative cymbal work, Robby is a unique and incredible force behind the kit. His drumming has always been great but this album really highlights it with songs like “Bruce Lee” and “Alabaster,” the latter of which features what sounds like bongos and maracas on top of everything else the band is doing.
The psychedelic rock roots of All Them Witches come through stunningly on “3-5-7” which riffs from start to finish and sounds like they dropped acid in an aquarium or something. It sounds like a weird place to drop acid (and it is) but the result speaks for itself. The guitars are at their fuzziest here and that combined with the 70s inspired keyboards, it is the total trippy package. The drumming drives the pace of this song, bouncing along with snappy fills and clever hi-hat and cymbal work. Parks’ echoing vocals and propelling bass lines give the song an extra trippy edge but what really vaults the song into the acid soaked stratosphere are the completely nonsensical lyrics. You know acid was involved because Parks is singing about being aware of the spoon, feeding the hand and something about an invisible plate. If you are still not convinced, watch the video they made for the song. It matches the tone of the song perfectly and is a total trip in itself.
As much as All Them Witches’ sound is driven by excellent melodies, the true strengths of the band lie in the riffs and the songwriting. Many of these songs rely on creative melodies to engage the listener but at the end of the day, they all have incredible riffs. They are not the heaviest riffs in the world but ATW knows precisely how and when to use them for maximum effect and the guitar tone fits their sound perfectly. It is clean enough for the melodies to ring true and the thick layer of fuzzy distortion in the riffs makes them gritty enough and heavy enough to elicit a huge “Hell Yeah” from even the pickiest fans of the genre. “Alabaster” is a perfect example of this as it starts with a cool guitar lick and then hits you with a riff so good and so catchy, you will never forget it.
What really sets All Them Witches apart from other 60s/70s inspired psych rock bands is the significant blues influence in their sound. This is part of what made Lightning at the Door such an incredible album and it certainly enhances this album even though the presence is diminished compared to past efforts. There are hints of this influence throughout the album but it is in full force on the album’s closer, “Internet.” This song has a killer background guitar melody that drives the song in concert with the drumming and some very bluesy driving piano. The cool part is the blues harmonica the band incorporates for a few extended sections of the song. It feels very improvisational too which is true to the old blues traditions. After one of these sections, that guitar melody becomes very bluesy, launching itself into a brief but terrific guitar solo that would make the masters smile. This has become something of a lost art with modern bands of this ilk and it is wonderful to hear a band get back to the roots of the genre. There are other bands like Goatsnake who exhibit a clear blues influence but nobody does it better than All Them Witches. If you are looking for something unique and exciting, give this album a whirl and prepare to be blown away.