With All Them Witches recently becoming a power trio after five albums as a quartet, it’s easy to imagine that their sixth full-length would reflect a changed dynamic. But for the most part, the Nashvillians’ vision is largely undeterred on Nothing As The Ideal (New West Records). The overall runtime may be the band’s shortest to date at only forty-three minutes long, but their signature mix of Fuzz Blues, Americana, and tripped out ambiance allows for plenty of exploration. Not much has changed on the surface but there are certainly ways to show off the more straightforward approach.
It’s hard to remember the last time All Them Witches ever sounded this aggressive. Past albums certainly had their share of heavy tracks, but the writing feels more riff-oriented than usual while the guitar and bass tones have more weight without the keyboards around. ‘Enemy Of My Enemy’ and ‘Lights Out’ put in the band’s most pummeling grooves to date and even the more meandering jams like ‘Saturnine & Iron Jaw’ and the near ten-minute ‘See You Next Fall’ have a noticeably sinister edge. It plays off the bravado that defined 2018’s ATW and could be seen as reaching back to the more overt grit of 2012’s Our Mother Electricity.
Of course, there’s still time for the band’s softer side to shine through. ‘The Children Of Coyote Woman’ is a particularly interesting highlight, hearkening to the days of 2013’s Lightning At The Door with its Romulus and Remus as “good ol’ boys” narrative over a gentle folk soundscape. The closing ‘Rats In Ruin’ also makes a powerful impression, as its first half is defined by a subdued bass line, dreamlike vocal filters, and subtle guitar ambiance that drifts off into a particularly somber jam by the end. The musicians are certainly no strangers to these longer-form pieces and it’s nice to see them pulled off just as well here.
Overall, All Them Witches keeps their strong momentum going with Nothing As The Ideal. While the band’s template hasn’t changed too drastically, the heavier guitar work and darker overtones make for an easy transition to a trio format. It’s not quite a throwback but one can imagine it is an easy sell for listeners that prefer the fuzz-friendlier leanings of their first two full-lengths. The band has had such a great track record in a near-decade of activity and it wouldn’t be too off base to think of this album as one of their best thus far.
9 / 10