Witch Mountain: A look at the Dueling Divas of Doom

Witch Mountain

Witch Mountain is a doom metal band that was formed in 1997 in Portland,
Oregon. They have toured with the likes of Eternal Elysium and, most notably,
Pentagram. Their lineup has changed a lot throughout the years. In fact, they’ve had eight bassists!

On a positive note, these lineup changes seem to be amicable. Currently, the only founding members are Rob Wrong on guitar and vocals and Nate Carson on drums. The primary change, however, occurred when primary vocalist Uta Plotkin left the band in 2014 to pursue other projects, “musical and otherwise”. About three months after Plotkin’s departure, 19-year-old Kayla Dixon was chosen as the new vocalist via video audition.

My fellow grunge fans surely remember when William DuVall became the lead
vocalist of Alice in Chains after Lane Staley’s unfortunate passing. The change in sound was barely discernible. With Witch Mountain, this was not the case.

Uta Plotkin

There are indisputable differences between the vocals of Uta Plotkin and Kayla Dixon. Uta Plotkin has a velvety voice that pairs flawlessly with the blues-laden doom instrumentals. Her voice will occasionally go up an octave without warning, calling to the listener like a siren song. Plotkin has the occult doom style down pat, giving the listener those 1960s/70s vibes we all love about the style.

Wing of the Lord, the opening song from the 2011 album South of Salem is a
great example of Plotkin’s vocal range. Hare’s Stare, however, really stands out on this record. It starts out like a doom song normally would, then Uta Plotkin emits what I can best describe as “banshee growls” (I mean that in the best way possible). It’s very much the exact music I would expect to hear if I were standing in a chilly, damp forest in Salem, Massachusetts, being hexed by a witch (again, in the absolute best way).

Witch Mountain’s 2012 album, Cauldron of the Wild, also features Plotkin on
vocals. This album is by far my favorite from the band. The Ballad of Lanky Rae stands out as a very bluesy, traditional doom style song that tells a story. This song is also great at showcasing Plotkin’s vocal range. Beekeeper is another favorite of mine from this album, and is markedly heavier. This one also gives me those awesome banshee/wraith vibes with the vocals, only this time it’s over much heavier music.

Mobile of Angels (2014) was Witch Mountain’s final album with Plotkin on vocals. While this is certainly a great album, I feel it’s not incredibly remarkable, especially when compared to the Cauldron of the Wild album.

Kayla Dixon

Kayla Dixon, on the other hand, is an absolute powerhouse who can do it all.
Overall, her voice is a bit more raspy, growly, and bluesy than Plotkin. However, she can also sound as smooth as silk when the situation calls for it. She also has a cool party trick: the girl can death growl with the best of them. Kayla Dixon is not only incredibly talented but is an incredibly versatile vocalist.

So far, Dixon has only recorded one full length album with Witch Mountain, a
self-titled release in 2018. This is certainly what I would call a very solid album, in which none of the songs are unlistenable. Burn You Down is a great song from this release that does a good job at highlighting Dixon’s powerful vocals and versatility, including a bit of death growling.

Hellfire is probably the most unique song on the record, not something you’d expect on a doom album at all. Overall, it has a much blusier or even folky feel at times. The largest portion of the song is devoted to Dixon’s lilting, melodic vocalizations against acoustic guitar, making this song very haunting yet very powerful.

Witch Mountain released the single Priceless Pain in 2019, by far the best
example of Kayla Dixon’s death growling. In fact, at least 60% of the song is sung in this manner. This song reminds me much more of a modern doom song than Witch Mountain’s previous work, which is definitely more traditional doom in style. It definitely makes me wonder if this more modern style is what we could expect from new material from the band.

The first Witch Mountain song I ever heard was a short snippet of their cover of
Soundgarden’s Limo Wreck, with Kayla Dixon on vocals. I was immediately hooked by her powerful voice, so I decided to listen to the band’s albums in chronological order.

After hearing three albums worth of Uta Plotkin singing, I felt there was no way anyone could replace her. I was wrong. Kayla Dixon didn’t replace Uta Plotkin, she allowed the band to have greater depth of sound and style. I’m also not saying that the differences between these two vocalists are incredibly drastic (think Ronnie James Dio replacing Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath); they certainly have some similarities. However, it’s their differences that make the switch successful in this case.

The Clear Winner

This begs the question: What do fans really want when a beloved vocalist is
replaced by someone new? A carbon copy of the original member? This could lead to a lot of nit-picking about how the new vocalist is either “trying too hard to be so-and-so” or just isn’t enough like the original singer. Or, you can go with a vocalist that has a different sound and style and take your chances, risking fans tuning your band out altogether out of loyalty to the original sound.

You really can’t win most of the time, but, in the case of Witch Mountain, I’d say adding Kayla Dixon was undoubtedly a victory. It’s certainly no secret that women are becoming a powerful force in the doom metal world. You have bands such as Witch Mountain, Hippie Death Cult (current lineup), Acid King, Ruby the Hatchet, and Snakemother, to name a few bands that are. fronted by some awesome women. Witch Mountain had two of them…

With either singer, Witch Mountain clearly won!!!

Be sure to stay tuned for the next blog in my Women in Doom series, featuring some of these amazing bands!

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