I thought I’d retired from reviewing jam bands. I tried it with two and just felt I couldn’t be bothered with it any longer. I’m temporarily coming out of that retirement to review All Them Witches and their recent album Dying Surfer Meets His Maker for two reasons: because of the urging of the promoter that gave me the album, because she’s a source I’m very thankful to have and because after my first listen of the album I could tell it was more than just made up of a few grotesquely long and slow aimless jams and instead has something a little more unique to offer.
There are, of course, long psychedelic jams on this album. Of the nine songs on Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, four are long jam songs ranging from six minutes to eight minutes. Thankfully only one of these songs (unfortunately the longest) El Centro does get to be a bit frivolous as an eight minute instrumental with no real hooks that really just serves as something to listen to for the sake of playing something.
The other three long tracks on Dying Surfer Meets His Maker have a little more to offer. The seven minute This Is Where It Falls Apart has a harmonica as the main focus playing over a slow lonely rhythm with some intermittent spoken word parts to give an ominous feeling. Talisman is similarly slow, but this time we have lead vocals to listen to differentiate. The music also sounds a lot more methodical, like All Them Witches know where they are taking the song. The last of the four, which also serves as the closing track to Dying Surfer is Blood And Sand – Milk And Endless Waters. This track is perhaps the finest of the instrumentals. It also doesn’t seem quite as aimless the way Talisman is musically and it has spoken word vocals that darken it up a bit more similar to how This Is Where It Falls Apart sounds. Despite being the second longest song on the album, it doesn’t feel that way when I listen to it.
These four long jams alone show how Dying Surfer Meets His Maker is different from the other jam albums and All Them Witches are a little bit more than just another jam band. What helps this case is the way they incorporate a number of shorter songs on to the album. Some of these songs are instrumentals and some aren’t, and they make the album surprisingly diverse. Opening track Call Me Star is over your typical sounding slow melancholy track with sad sounding vocals and predominant acoustic guitars, but when playing the album from beginning to end, it doesn’t seem to be a strange track to open the album with, as it gets louder and darker, leaving listeners curious for what’s next.
The non instrumental tracks on Dying Surfer Meets His Maker are similarly as dark. Open Passageways similarly mixes acoustic guitars with electric guitars, but it has a more sizeable sound to it, as well as more instruments (including a violin) which make it more uncommon of a psychedelic jam band’s recording. Dirt Preachers is the fastest paced song on the entire album and the most typical song of a hard rock band. It has fuzzed out guitar sounds and a relatively fast drum beat (but remarkably fast compared to any other song on the album) before slowing down to a familiar pace for the band.
The shorter instrumentals on Dying Surfer Meets His Maker give the album a bit more of an entertaining mix of songs. Instrumental 2 (Welcome To The Caveman Future) is a jam not much different to the longer ones heard throughout the album, but since it runs at only two-and-a-half minutes, it just seems to make more sense to listen to. Mellowing is the song that completely brought me to the realization that All Them Witches are leagues above other jam bands. It’s just a three minute acoustic instrumental with no other instruments, but it gives such a statement of how they can compile different ideas and put them on record rather than recycle jam after jam.
I don’t imagine I’ll stay out of my retirement of reviewing jam bands for very long, but I can say All Them Witches have been more than worth my time to listen to and review. Their large fan base doesn’t surprise me at all. Dying Surfer Meets His Maker does have many classifications of jam bands I’ve reviewed before such as Wo Fat and Craang, as they can sound doomy and gloomy and have the one dimensional stoner rock sound that the band calls “psychedelic,” but Dying Surfer Meets His Maker has one thing that the others don’t. Entertaining portions of variety.
Thanks for reading!
“Dirt Preachers” – How do I pick a highlight here? Over half of the album is instrumental or has spoken word vocals, four of the songs run long and the ones that don’t tend to be very short. Dirt Preachers comes to mind as the highlight mostly because of the part of the song when it slows down in pace, which musically sounds as good as the best moments on Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. Sure it has vocals, which less than 50% of the album has, and sure when its pace is at its fastest it’s about 100% faster than the rest of the album, and when I pick a highlight I tend to go for the song that best represents every track on the album, but in this case, there really isn’t one.
7 (Out of 10)
|1||Call Me Star||3:54|
|4||This Is Where It Falls Apart||7:01|
|7||Instrumental 2 (Welcome To the Caveman Future)||2:32|
|9||Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters||7:20|