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All Them Witches – Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

by Martyn Coppack

There are few bands who can turn a live show into something a little more interesting than just a rehash of their usual songs. You have bands who may mix the setlist up (sometimes nightly), you’ll have bands who perform songs that haven’t even been released yet (Radiohead) and you have your bog standard play the hits as that’s what’s selling our tickets. All worthy causes but in the name of art, and in this case art rock, you sometimes require something a little different. Welcome then, to the world of All Them Witches.

A band who seemingly improvise their sets every night and turn them into one long jam, they have become almost an update of the free-wheeling spirit of Grateful Dead. Here there is only darkness though, and the hippy dream is replaced by something much more sinister. Whatever that is plays into the songs and brings a sense of excitement rarely seen live.

So how does this crossover to an album release? Well, for All Them Witches it means a chance to let the songs do the talking rather than the jamming. Behind the layers of solos, here is a band who understand the true sound of classic rock and roll and how to turn that into a song. They almost don’t belong on the pages of Artrocker with their innate sense of classicism but that would be to miss the true point of art rock. This is music which pushes at boundaries, even if those boundaries are ones laid out by the rock and roll behemoths of the 70s.

What All Them Witches do more than anything, is take the listener on a journey. It’s a journey which seeps straight into your inner psyche and opens doors you wish would remain closed. Like some dark, twisted dream, they evoke a mysterious feeling of dread yet also a homely one. You always feel in comfort with the band, as if they are watching out for you on your dangerous travails.

Music like this just feels so alive. You can almost feel the heat of the swamp rising from it’s crevices. It also feels surprisingly urban too with their music drifting from deep south blues to east coast jazz without ever falling into the traps of excess. For a band who base their live shows on free jams, they understand that the true nature of a great song or piece of music is in its simplicity.

Dying Surfer Meets His Maker is an album which defies description. It may feel out of place on these pages during one listen yet may feel utterly at home on the next. It’s a shifting beast of a record which uses music as it’s narrative with the vocals as a means to colour the picture. It’s sense of rock and roll classicism can just as easily move into a psychedelic masterpiece capturing everything that fed into the building blocks of the genre. It’s a master-class in understatement whilst still remaining a full blown rock and roll album. And on those moment of clarity when the music coalesces into a melodic whole, it simply does not get any better.