Release Date: Feb 24, 2017
Record label: New West
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Depending on which state-of-the-pop-world conversation you jump into, rock is routinely in decline, left for dead, or being resuscitated. All Them Witches don't seem like the kind of guys to entertain any of those notions. Their three previous studio albums - the most recent being the journey-mannered Dying Surfer Meets His Maker in 2015 -- are thick with drunk history but thin on straight revival.
The Nashville-based quartet's fourth studio long-player, and second for New West Records, Sleeping Through the War is All Them Witches' most fully realized set to date, a sprawling yet remarkably focused effort that takes their exploratory, often spliced-together work ethic in a more stridently song-oriented direction. That's not to say that the band has abandoned the bluesy, promethean space rock of prior outings -- you can practically smell the smoke wafting into the control room during the hypnotic "Alabaster" and the rootsy, nearly ten-minute closer, "Internet" -- but less proto-metal offerings like "Don't Bring Me Coffee" and "Bruce Lee" evoke Queens of the Stone Age far more than they do Hawkwind. There's some significant sonic heft at play here as well, thanks in part to the presence of Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Shooter Jennings, Jason Isbell), who provides ample vistas for the band to probe, but is quick to administer a bit of contrast when things get a little too far out.
Stoner rock is crying out for an overhaul. Thankfuly, All Them Witches are taking it apart and piecing it back together again. Not for them the slavish Iommi worship of your average bong-huffing longhairs. The Nashville band's fourth album parties like it's 1969 and 2019, looking forward to the future as much as it does backwards over a well-trodden past.
One of the unfortunate trade-offs we have in our progressively more digitally-oriented society is the experience of seeing graphics on albums bought as a download or stream. Quickly fading are the days music lovers would scour album or CD bins, looking for front-cover artwork to catch their eye and maybe take a chance on exposing themselves to new, exciting sounds based on creative package design. That involvement of touching, seeing and responding to the images adorning CDs is particularly relevant concerning the new release from Nashville's All Them Witches.
There's a certain deep satisfaction that comes with pinpointing the exact moment a band comes of age. For Nashville upstarts All Them Witches it comes approximately one minute and 15 seconds into their new album 'Sleeping Through The War' just after singer Charlie Parks Jr. croons the eponymous title. Robby Staebler's drums snap backwards as Ben McLeod's fuzzed-up Les Paul uncoils, baring its fangs like a startled rattlesnake to snap the listener out of their bleary-eyed stupor before smashing into an all-out assault on the senses.
These are parlous days and the time for sitting on the fence is well and truly over. Not least because the longer you're perched there, the greater the chance of slipping and skewering your all of your most tender parts. And while you'd be a misguided fool to accuse All Them Witches of doing precisely that, the Nashville quartet have, over the course of their previous three albums, displayed a deft ability to straddle the divide between psychedelia and the blues to the consternation of commissioning editors the world over.