As the floor of The Lexington starts to fill I am hastily reminded of two things. Firstly, what a great sound system they have here, as the down-tuned cudgel of the aptly named Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard cordially vibrates every riff-loving bone in my body. Secondly, the broad spectrum of music fans that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches appeal to.
With one foot firmly in the psych-blues genre, and now with new album Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, the other in a more concise rootsy future, All Them Witches have the diversity of sound to appeal to both fans of blues and indie, right through to the proggier churches of metal. Tonight this cross-section is in full head-nodding attendance for Welsh support act MWWB, who from a musical perspective, and with the less-than faint perfume of marijuana hanging in the air, exuberantly channel doom and stoner pioneers Sleep, only with the auxiliary advantage of Jessica Ball’s wistful high vocal.
It is this most welcome distinction that, along with fellow doomsters Windhand, set them apart in a currently crowded genre. Only now approaching their eighteenth month as a band, their fledgling set of extended doom-slogs stands them in good stead, and their last trudging riff is greeted with appreciative cheers from both longhaired metal-heads and bespectacled indie-types alike.
All Them Witches are currently flying high, and with their outstanding third full-length now added to their arsenal I’m eager to hear just how they’ll bring both their instrumental and tonal diversity to a small London stage. The answer becomes apparent about three minutes into opener ‘Mountain’ – really fucking easily.
It appears that in the four years since their inception All Them Witches have honed the live delivery of their lull-and-crash psych-blues to a point where each finger-picked lull dives head-first into its subsequent crash without ever becoming boring. At no point during the set is there a musically opportune moment to source another beer from the bar or nip to the loo, and that is no mean feat for a band built on extended psych-jam foundations.
The longer fuzzed-out jams that make up tracks like ‘The Death Of Coyote Woman’ and ‘Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird’ are executed with an endearing laid-back vigour, frontman Michael Parks’ reserved nature contrasting perfectly with Robby Staebler’s frenetic drum attack. Ben McCleod and Allan Van Cleave’s respective guitar and keys intertwine blues and psychedelia in equal measure with what looks like effortless abandon.
The more straightforward stompers like ‘When God Comes Back’ and ‘Heavy Like a Witch’ pepper the set, injecting pace where needed. Folkier numbers such as ‘Open Passageways’ lack the strings of the record in this live context but successfully maintain their rootsy soul and still evoke the transient nature present on Dying Surfer. The band seem at ease in this small venue, partaking in whisky from the bottle at regular intervals and clearly taking great enjoyment in executing live what is now an extremely accomplished set of songs.
This is not to say there aren’t misfires. The spoken-word sections on epic songs like ‘Blood & Sand/Milk & Endless Water’ fall a little flat and lack the shamanic quality imbued on record but realistically this was always going to be a tough sell, and as each transition evolves out of The Lexington’s crystal sound system, the band craft a set that does their depth of material justice. All Them Witches are an impressive live act who masterfully bring their mystical portraits of American countryside to the London stage.