(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Senior Writer/Journalist, RiffRelevant.com)
As fantastic a line up as this boasts being, it was made even better by a rare treat… a FREE show! With a respectable turn out showing up, Asheville’s own ALMUTEN would launch the night’s festivities.
For the record, I knew nothing about ALMUTEN coming into this event, but several friends had informed me that they are a great, newer band currently building their presence. The quintet – Nikki Frank (Vocals), Scotty P (Guitar), Zin Vetro (Guitar), Adam Kowalski (Bass), and Springs Wade (Drums) – soon launched into a killer set.
Accompanied by a psychedelic light and visual show courtesy of Oblivion Light Show, ALMUTEN‘s aural output jived nicely with trippy enhancement from the liquid lights. The band’s fluid, energized performance of contemporary rock with a heavy classic rock/grunge/alternative bent to it was stellar. Rife with a lot of solid jamming, fiery guitars, and Nikki’s diverse vocal range, ALMUTEN set the bar high right from the start of their set.
Ultimately, they delivered four originals, “Changeling” [streaming], “Tears For The Hierophant“, “In Flight” and “Watcher Of The Watchers“, along with a cool, trippy take on The Doors classic, “Strange Days“. Once again, I was made aware of yet another promising band making their mark within the AVL underground (a regular occurrence for me there) and it will be cool to watch their growth.
Next to take the stage would be Portland’s doom powerhouse, WITCH MOUNTAIN, who recently released their self-titled album through Svart Records. The album is their first studio record with new bassist, Justin Brown, and the first full-length to be laid down with vocalist Kayla Dixon. The band is rounded out by longtime members Nathan Carson (drums) and Rob Wrong (guitar).
The quartet delivered amazing renditions of several of the new record’s tracks including “Midnight“, “Burn You Down” and “Nighthawk“, along with some of their older classics. Being the stand-alone entity they are, WITCH MOUNTAIN walk a fine line between doom and classic metal, their songs powered by Rob’s massive riffs and incendiary guitar playing.
Then there is the band’s rhythm section of Carson and Brown, who hold everything down and anchor it firmly into resolute place. Dense and crushing, the pair’s aural productivity is thunderous, thick, and ultimately navigates things to the destination the band are seeking. Be it sludgy, or bordering more on the drone side of doom, or even a bit more akin to traditional metal, this duo drive the advance of each song.
Topping things off are Kayla’s animated, over-the-top vocals and onstage demeanor as she traverses the dynamic ranges within her grasp. With flare and presence, her deliveries are bolstered by the ever-morphing psychedelic doom heaviness emanating from her band mates’ instrumentation. Make sure to check out the Riff Relevant Interview with WITCH MOUNTAIN that I conducted prior to this night’s set HERE.
In the six years since I first discovered Atlanta’s ROYAL THUNDER, I’ve managed to catch them live at least eight or so times, all over the eastern U.S. seaboard. I never tire of these experiences and am never disappointed or subject to a lame live presentation from the band. Tonight would be no different.
Though the quartet’s membership has changed once or twice over the years, the core of bassist / vocalist Mlny “Mel” Parsonz and guitarist Josh Weaver is always intact. Recent years saw them joined by second guitarist Will Forte (Zoroaster) and (as I’d learn tonight) a new drummer. Order Of The Owl’s Dwayne Jones, would be thrown to the wolves in his first live appearance with the band.
Spoiler: Dwayne, and the others, would all deliver yet another enthralling, utterly amazing live presentation of ROYAL THUNDER‘s alt. rock/psyche-blues material. With three full-length albums and a couple of EPs to draw from, the quartet served up mind-blowing offerings of such songs as “Whispering World“, “Blue“, “Mouth Of Fire“, “Low“, and others. As always, Mel’s raspy, emotive vocals and “quiet cool”, or laid back presence, contributes to the focus really being on the songs themselves.
That could be said for her bandmates, too (well, some of them anyway), as each seem to enter a stationary state while playing. That’s less true for the drummer, of course, and absolutely not applicable at all to Josh as he plays. Always moving, he’s a dynamo of live energy, such that gets transferred through his guitar playing and creates a spectacle to witness as he melts your mind with vibrant guitar-based discharges.
I find it nearly impossible to pull away from a, or any, ROYAL THUNDER live set and this one tonight in AVL was no exception. Utterly astounding… as always. In fact, all three of this evening’s acts were stellar in their own right, each in their own way. I recommend you get out and catch either ROYAL THUNDER, WITCH MOUNTAIN, or ALMUTEN live should the opportunity present itself.
You have ample shots to do exactly that currently with either WITCH MOUNTAIN or ROYAL THUNDER, as both remain on the road for a while longer. ROYAL THUNDER joined the reactivated CKY on tour right after this Asheville show. You can find their ongoing live appearances HERE.
You can find the remaining dates of the current WITCH MOUNTAIN tour HERE.
*All Photos Courtesy Of Will Bouton / FUGO Films & Photography