Mountain Witch – Extinct Cults Review

A band’s swan song can often be a masterpiece, an emotional rollercoaster, or a dud. When a band knows they’re calling it quits for a while, most often they will pour their hearts into that final album. That’s what I hoped for when I grabbed Extinct Cults, the latest (and last, prior to what is described as a long hiatus) from German proto-rockers Mountain Witch. The duo of Rene and Rene (Roggmann and Sitte) adhere to old-school recording and production aesthetics, and add plenty of mid-70s hard rock vibes to the underlying Black Sabbath themes. On their final outing, they promise to leave it all on the floor and deliver a multifaceted masterpiece. On paper, this should be great.

For one last kick at the can, Extinct Cults is remarkably succinct. The six songs here are over and done with in little more than half an hour, and all have a very hurried feel to them, as if Rene and Rene simply wanted to get things over with. This stems in no small part from the deliberately shoddy production, which features poor drum sounds and reverb-laden, at times slightly off-key vocals. “Capping Day” provides ponderous Sabbathian riffs and echoing vocals and is overly simplistic, sounding like it was recording live in one take.1 It is an unremarkable opener, but “Back from the Grave” is a completely different beast, with a rollicking melody and plenty of 70s keyboards. Sadly, it’s about two minutes too long.

“Worship You” is obviously the song where the boys worship Black Sabbath, with riffs lovingly lifted nearly straight from the annals of history. Unfortunately, the amateur approach to getting this on tape strips the song of any charm it might otherwise have. “Man is Wolf to Man” might be the most enticing track, simple and straightforward, albeit with a somewhat generic riff, and there’s no fat to trim on this up-tempo cut. This immediacy lends the song charm that Mountain Witch mostly fail to reach on the other songs.

Extinct Cults is a promising album rife with issues. I’ve already touched on them, but listening to these songs over and over this month only exacerbates the problems. I’m all for the retro approach, but one can pull it off and still sound great. When an album sounds almost like it’s been recorded in a room with two mics, it distracts from the potential of the songs. The same goes for lack of production or refinement in the vocal approach. Mountain Witch’s vocals sound more like they are pulled from live bootleg recordings. And to top it off, half the songs stretch well over six minutes, but are so simple in nature that they cannot maintain momentum for anywhere more than four minutes. This all adds up to a record that was probably a lot more fun to record than it was to listen to. The mid-70s classic rock flair the band tries to add to their basic proto-doom foundation is well-intentioned, but delivers more a sense of regret that Mountain Witch couldn’t fully deliver.

While I hoped for a gem of a record here, Mountain Witch have failed to deliver. Despite the promise to “do it properly,” the band have given us half a dozen songs that sound more like a high school band project. The songwriting isn’t the problem; rather, the performances and production can’t live up to the quality of the material. There are tunes here that, if done up right, could be stellar, but the DIY, ultra-old school approach lets the band down. I wish the boys better luck in their future endeavors.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: This Charming Man Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 29th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. It probably was; all the songs sound this way.
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