It’s hard to pin a genre to Nashville’s All Them Witches (ATW), though the three-piece band is certainly within the realm of Stoner Rock. Since their debut 2012 record, Our Mother Electricity, the band’s sound continues to evolve.
We’ve been devouring ATW’s discography at Monster Riff lately, so we were super-excited to learn of the release of Nothing as the Ideal in early September. The new album is arguably the band’s heaviest to date.
About All Them Witches
ATW formed in 2012 (their name comes from a witchcraft book in the 1968 classic horror movie, Rosemary’s Baby). The band has been prolific since then. Nothing as the Ideal is their sixth studio album in the past eight years.
We’ve become big fans of ATW because of the vast melting pot they draw from in their music – they’re influenced just as much by Dr. John and Mississippi bluesman Junior Kimbrough as they are by Black Sabbath and Progressive Metal. Their albums, especially 2013’s Lightning at the Door, can venture from bluesy riffs and folk tales to spacey Neo-Psychedelic to punishing Doom Rock.
ATW is currently a trio consisting of Charles Michael Parks Jr. on vocals and bass, Robby Staebler on drums, and guitarist Ben McLeod.
Nothing as the Ideal Review
This new All Them Witches album was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. Specifically, the band recorded in Studio Two, where The Beatles and Pink Floyd once played.
Nothing as the Ideal features eight tracks and clocks in at 43 minutes. It’s perhaps ATW’s most experimental album in their brief career. It by turns bludgeons listeners with heavy metal riffs, then careens into fleeting moments of quiet reveries, such as the final track, “Rats in Ruin.”
Track 1: Saturnine & Iron Jaw
The album begins with this menacing banger, the first single released from the record. It’s a nearly seven-minute track that starts slow and then pummels with a wall of noise. Bells toll in the distance, accompanied by a loop of gloomy atmospheric guitar, in the first minute or so. At the 1:50 mark, McLeod’s guitar comes in gently and melodically.
But, like the rest of the album, things aren’t quite what they seem. At the 2:30 mark, we’re hit with a muscular riff and Parks’ haunting vocals, which seem to fade in from the nothingness he sings of.
Parks’ vocal delivery is excellent, like spoken-word poetry over the brutal soundscape. In the second verse, he repeats the track’s title: “saturnine and iron jaw.” Saturnine is an adjective used to describe someone who’s of a gloomy disposition. The word derives from Saturn, who, if you don’t know, was the Roman god of agriculture who was usually represented as a sullen old man.
Track 2: Enemy of My Enemy
The heaviness continues in this track, a powerful three-and-a-half minutes that reminded us of Tool’s best Prog Metal. McLeod’s riffs are aggressive and relentless, accompanied by thunderous drumming and ominous vocals.
The track also has a dark vibe lyrically. In a pre-chorus refrain, Parks sings:
Behold my power
Nothing changes nothing
You shake and cower
Nothing changes nothing
Track 3: Everest
“Everest” is a welcome break from the first two songs, as McLeod shows off his guitar chops in this two-minute-plus instrumental track. His quiet meanderings are reminiscent of the brief interludes of Jimmy Page on an old Led Zeppelin album – a kind of calm amid the storm.
Track 4: See You Next Fall
After “Everest,” you may think the album is taking a softer turn. That’s certainly not the case. “See You Next Fall” begins with a creepy soundscape and far-away voices repeating barely discernible phrases, like something from a horror movie soundtrack. If you dare, listen to this one when walking home at night.
The track is nearly 10 minutes long, a sprawling epic that is ATW at their best. McLeod’s distorted guitar wanes and whines in the beginning before Parks jumps in with lyrics that tell us all is not well. Some reviewers have noted the song may be about the rigors of touring, as Parks sings at one point: “see you next fall, sick of it all.”
At around the six-minute mark, Parks’ chorus leads into the track’s primary riff and possibly the most memorable riff on the album. “See You Next Fall” also gives McLeod space to really rip, featuring a couple of solos.
Track 5: The Children of Coyote Women
For ATW fans, the title of track 5 should be immediately recognizable. The song’s title and concept continue the myth of the “Coyote Women” from two memorable ATW songs from 2013’s Lightning at the Door.
“The Children of Coyote Women” is another single from the album, and it’s Parks’ best lyrical effort. The song tells the tale of brothers Romulus and Remus Hill. Parks told Revolver magazine it’s a re-telling of Rome’s founding from a dirt-poor Southern American perspective. The Hill brothers bitterly fight for control of their region after the death of their mother, the Coyote Woman, and, as Parks sings, “… all the neighbors had to move along/for fear they’d get caught up in their wake.”
Track 6: 41
“41” begins with a clip of a tape reel until it transitions into a heavy-duty riff. The track clocks in at nearly five-and-a-half minutes and, unlike “The Children of Coyote Women,” it feels more like it belongs on this album. The guitar and bass chug on “41,” constantly building tension as the vocals and lyrics paint a picture of doom and paranoia. In the chorus, Parks sings, “When the going’s like returning/The road is mighty dark.”
Track 7: Lights Out
Another single from the album, “Lights Out” is a premier track for Staebler, the drummer. It’s a sinister song with blaring riffs and menacing vocals. It also ends in a spooky way, adding to the horror soundtrack feel of the album. Just when the sonic wave is loudest, the plug is pulled at the 2:50 mark and followed by fading, ambient sounds suited for walking through a haunted house.
Track 8: Rats in Ruin
If you managed to listen to the album front-to-back, “Rats in Ruin” is an exceptional way to wrap things up. At just over nine minutes, it’s the second-longest track on the album. It’s also the most melancholy song, a fitting way to end a record where most of the lyrics were doom and gloom.
Final Thoughts on Nothing as the Ideal
Pros: At this point, we’re pretty sure we’d like anything ATW conjures up. Nothing as the Ideal shows the band continuing to experiment and grow as artists – the album combines many of the elements that make them great.
Tracks like “Saturnine & Iron Jaw” and “See You Next Fall” show just how talented they are, and the fact they can jump from the more Psych-Rock of previous albums into something far heavier. The general theme of despair in the record’s lyrics may not cheer us up, but there’s a gothic beauty to it.
Cons: Nothing as the Ideal feels disjointed at times. We love “The Children of the Coyote Women,” but the acoustic track felt very out of place on a record that mostly ventured into Doom Rock.
There’s no doubt ATW are fine musicians at the top of their craft. But we felt the lyrics left something to be desired. Other than “The Children of the Coyote Women,” none of the songs tell any type of story. Instead, the minimalist lyrics seem more like shabby poetry from an angsty youngster.