Nothing As The Ideal is All Them Witches’ sixth studio album, and the first since 2018’s self-titled effort, a collection that could conceivably be their best to date. This time, they ended up in Abbey Road and turned back to the producer of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, Mikey Allred, instead of handling it all themselves; as a result, you can feel the outside influence once again, after 2018’s effort felt more, well, ‘them’. They’ve trimmed themselves down to a ‘power’ trio after the departure of keyboard player Jonathan Draper, meanwhile.
At times cacophonous, at times mellow, it’s always been difficult to know what to expect of the Tennessee outfit and Nothing As The Ideal sees them covering many bases instead of perhaps honing in on one aspect of their sound. Whilst this keeps the album interesting, it does dilute the presence of their biggest weapon – lengthy stoner rock jams – but for some reason that’s mostly been the case throughout their career. Odd when you consider that when they go down this route, they’re a handsome match for anyone.
Two monumental pillars of power hold the album together: See You Next Fall and closer Rats In Ruin, both of which top nine minutes yet leave you dissatisfied that they didn’t last twice as long. The former is glorious – stoner rock to a tee. Soundscapes like this pepper their career yet never dominate, and that’s the problem – they are just too good at these to scatter the odd one here and there on albums when they could easily fill two sides of vinyl in this vein and batter all competition out of the ground. Vocals take three minutes to arrive as the slow, brooding gem sees them playing their joker, the soundtrack clearly the result of a brilliant jamming session that found its voice at a later date: it’s flawless.
Rats In Ruin takes longer to deliver, its first section bearing a slight resemblance to Planet Caravan, Black Sabbath’s psychedelic detour from the classic Paranoid album from 1970. During the quiet, reflective beginning though, its title gets perhaps a little too much lyrical exposure, but the second half is another magnificent highligh; an outstanding drum pattern and blissful piece of guitar work elevate the track to anthemic levels. It’s a moment of sheer beauty.
Accompanying these two huge epics are six more tracks, admittedly with more varying results, but there’s never a dull moment. Opener Saturnine And Iron Jaw might be a baffling song title, but it’s another cracker as tolling bells – not quite in the same league as AC/DC’s Hells Bells Back In Black opener but close – take you into a world of mystery, mist and doom as if death is approaching. Intricate guitar work leads to a percussion heavy onslaught and dark-toned riffage, the song making several about turns like a bunch of snippets all stitched together.
There’s some Sabbath-like riffing on 41 alongside picked bass – another track to hint at impending doom – whilst Lights Out continues the darkness as well as Sabbath likenesses with an air of mystery once again. Single The Children Of Coyote Woman is much less rocky, yet still recalling ’70s rock in the shape of Led Zeppelin when they took their foot off the gas to delve into their folky side. Enemy Of My Enemy, meanwhile, boasts more heavy riffage in an incessant, more urgent style as Charles Michael Parks Jr tells us that “nothing changes nothing” before an instrumental fallout.
Perhaps slightly more eclectic than other recent efforts, Nothing As The Ideal never fails to entertain and covers much ground in doing so. It’s a case of which aspect do you like about the band at times, though: the metal side or the stoner rock side. You probably won’t be disappointed if you sit in either camp; equally, however, you may feel disappointed that you haven’t had enough of your preferred All Them Witches fix.