Too much of metal these days relies on production techniques which, whilst making the music sound a lot more heavier by industrialising it, fails to capture the true essence of what made the genre so good in the first place. Mountain Witch eschew all this in favour of a raw, back to basics, analogue approach which renders this album, Cold River, a retrospective old school feel and one which works an absolute treat.
Signs post to the obvious Black Sabbath influence throughout this album and there is no getting away from it. If you're going to imitate the masters though, you better make sure you do it well. Mountain Witch recognise this need and deliver on all counts for a doomladen ride into 70's prog rock heaven (or hell as the case really is).
The instrumental 'Snake Wand' sets the scene before the funky riff of 'Shrubbery the Warlock' kicks things off proper. The vocals are a bit jarring at first as they are so low in the mix and don't quite seem to sit right but this doesn't last long as we settle into the song proper. It's raw and sparse but that's not to say there isn't a lot going on.
Tempo changes to the almighty riffs on offer break up what could easily have sounded monotonous with 'Ancient Light' then 'Sleepers Chant' creating an almost pagan feel. Imagine a lost soundtrack to Witchfinder General and you're halfway there with it's atmospheric use of minimal instruments. It's little wonder you get the creeps as yet another riff takes you to further out places.
If this is psych then it's a dark 70's trip and one that has more than a hint of the progressive about it. 'Once I Am King' is epic and fulfils all the ambitions set out by the opening half of the album and then you get the crescendo that ends 'School of Night', which is mindblowing and headbangingly good.
There is nothing you haven't heard before here but Mountain Witch do it with such panache it would be unfair to dismiss them. The raw feel may grate but if you are looking for a prime slice of classic doom metal you won't go far wrong with this album. Riff laden, progressive and scary, it's everything a true metal album should be.