All Them Witches/The Ghost Wolves – Birmingham, O2 Institute – 30 September 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson   
Thursday, 12 October 2017 04:00

Few modern bands have quite the same touring ethic as Nashville’s All Them Witches. Having toured Europe no less than five times in the past two years alone, as well as building a steady network of impressive and inventive records that loosely fit under the ‘stoner rock’ tag, but otherwise touch base everywhere from psychedelia to blues, the band exist in an 80s hardcore type narrative, a band itching to burn the road and get their music out to fans the good old fashioned way.


In turn, this drive has affected the band’s music, giving it an organic sense of progression and evolution which lesser bands would kill for. To say then, that the prospect of catching the band live in the wake of new album ‘Sleeping Through The War’ is an exciting one, would be a massive understatement. Booked for the attic room of Birmingham’s O2 Institute, All Them Witches bring along only one support for the evening, fellow countryman-and-woman duo The Ghost Wolves.


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The environs of an attic venue feel very appropriate for the stripped back garage punk vibes created by The Ghost Wolves, their fuzz-heavy noise immediately calling to mind local fuzz-punk heroes Table Scraps. Less appropriate is the baffling decision to keep the house lights on, a decision which unfortunately lessens some of the impact of vocalist Carley Wolf’s onstage theatrics.


The band persevere nonetheless though, plugging away at a setlist largely culled from the band’s latest album, ‘Texa$ Platinum’ offering a series of addictive earworms and catchy refrains that stick in the mind. ‘Shotgun Pistol Grip’ (the opening track from the band’s debut ‘Man, Woman, Beast’) proves to be a particular highlight, the song’s refrain of “Grandma’s a rebel/raised by the devil” prompting the evening’s first chant-along.


Lighting issues fixed, All Them Witches take to the stage flanked in coloured light, a psychedelic forecast for what is to come. Bringing out the big riffs early, the band sound utterly monolithic as they launch into the set, slipping in hit ‘When God Comes Back’ early on to get the crowd grinning from ear to ear as heads bang and horns are raised. Sounding tighter than a miser’s wallet, the band lock in to pull out some heavy rhythmic blasts of, drawing deep from the stoner rock well of groove.


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Vocalist Charles Michael Parks Jnr. evokes the spirit of Lou Reed and Jim Morrison, his deep baritone grounding the psychedelic and experimental tendencies of the band and bringing an intensity to the performance which is nothing short of captivating. There’s plenty of psychedelia and experimentation to go around, the huge tones of ‘3-5-7’ filling the room with a transcendental atmosphere which leaves the band feeling almost ubiquitous.


Much more than just another stoner rock band having spent too much time listening to the burning bush and playing with a fuzzpedal, All Them Witches cast some genuinely exciting and experimental tones throughout their set. Each song is a journey unto itself; ‘The Death of Coyote Woman’ for instance begins with an intense psychedelic freak-out, crescendos, then comes back down to earth in a tribal, minimalistic beat – all in under three minutes of the song’s eight minute run-time.


Interestingly, despite the intense feel of progression between records, the set feels surprisingly cohesive, each song feeling like a natural riff on its predecessor. This allows the band to jump between albums seamlessly, from ‘Elk.Blood.Heart’ off their debut Our Mother Electricity to ‘Charles William’ from 2013’s ‘Lightning At The Door’ and beyond, each track flowing into the next with such fluidity you’d think they were on a single release. At times desolate and minimalist, others utterly chaotic and enormous, All Them Witches inhabit so many different soundscapes that you can believe the band are on a never-ending journey of musical discovery, taking the listener with them across the hugely diverse set.


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The band hit their stride with ‘Internet’, the closing track from ‘Sleeping Through The War’. A highlight of the set, ‘Internet’ stretches out into a seemingly endless jam which travels so far into the stratosphere that it’s scarcely believable that it’s all still one song as the run-time hits past ten minutes of pure, delicious southern-sun-soaked musicianship. With the atmosphere charged with pure lightning from the band, it’s almost a painful shame that the set has to end before they can play great tunes like ‘Don’t Bring Me Coffee’ (a song which is requested frequently throughout the night).


Filling every second of the time they do have, All Them Witches are a band far beyond their years, sounding much more seasoned than their five years of history would suggest. Moulded and shaped by the road, the band are the masters of their craft, their set an expansive and adventurous journey through their discography whilst completely updating and reimagining their own songs. This band don’t have legs; they have a tour-bus and a sense of adventure which may yet take them to the ends of the earth and back – all we can do is join them on the way and enjoy the ride.


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