Potion, a stoner/doom/space-rock band from Australia, just unveiled their second release on June 19th titled Women of the Wand. The young trio has only been around since 2017, but don’t let that hinder your visions of their work – this is a phenomenal piece of music.
From a rest-of-the-world point of view, Australia is a foreign land filled with mystical, venomous, and dangerous creatures that roam the outback. Okay, maybe I’m being close-minded. Anyways, Potion’s coven-themed onslaught of thick-sounding guitars and ominous stoner-grunge vocals mixes well with my scary mental picture of what their home continent looks like. Be prepared to be bitten by the wild Potion snake, a three-fanged thunder-producing beast lurks through the depths of Bandcamp.
I will preface the following with the affirmation that a suitable format category for this release hasn’t been very well defined. Women of the Wand feels more towards the end of a short EP, as the duo of songs reach just over 12 minutes in total. However, the band and a few other sources have listed the release as a single, presumably because the 4-minute intro instrumental “Dead Mountain” is seen as more of a precursor to the 8-minute monolith title track that follows it. For the sake of dissecting the release, I will consider it an EP as I think that “Dead Mountain” is a great track on its own and can be differentiated from the song that follows it. On to the review.
Potion is just coming off the wave of their debut EP titled Seven Sorcerers/Gravemaker which came out in 2017. The group is now hastily back with another similar release consisting of two songs, a 4-minute instrumental “Dead Mountain” and an 8-minute track called “Women of the Wand”. As mentioned above, I think “Dead Mountain” is meant to be more of an introduction/break-the-ice track that is included to warm up the listener’s ears in preparation for the main course of the EP. However, the song doesn’t simply feel like a collection of riffs to me.
“Dead Mountain” really holds its own in my opinion. While the sans-lyric and short nature of the track might take away from its prowess for some, the release’s exceptional mix makes it nonetheless an enjoyable listen. While “Dead Mountain” seamlessly flows into “Women of the Wand”, even to the point that the two tunes share a main riff, the into track wanders along its 4-minute timeline, offering the listener a cushion of foggy riffs and driven drum beats.
I really enjoy how the song manages to convey a certain vibe which emanates from its fullness and thought-provoking title. While the main content of the release lies behind the lyrics found on the title track which portray a tale of three witches, “Dead Mountain” ties in to their story fittingly. One can interpret the wandering and lifting riffs of the intro track to be the winding less-travelled roads that lead to the witch coven discussed on the track after. The mystical and shrouded nature of these wand-bearing women is hidden behind this unsurpassable leviathan, the Dead Mountain itself. Rain pours over your tired soul as you attempt to find the assembly of the occult. Lightning strikes, lighting up the air behind massive mountains, offering you a brief image of how tall they tower. While you are alone, you stare into the mountain range and feel as if they are watching you, no matter how stupid you think your imagination is, your gut feeling will always prevail. You venture on.
“Women of the Wand” follows, offering the band’s staple sound that will never get old. While Potion certainly hits all of the criteria for a stoner/doom band (massive riffs, thick production, foggy vocals), they manage to differentiate themselves by their ability to create change of pace and mood that fits within their music. While “Women of the Wand” opens up with a familiar guitar sound accompanied by a straightforward drum beat, it ventures on to open up into a wide range of emotion and feeling.
Juxtaposed by the massive opening track and generally-thick production on the release, vocalist Lee Jowono’s sorrowful vocal deliveries introduce a somber atmosphere to a previously-established stoner vibe. His vocals are delightfully rough while equally offering a feeling of dreariness to the atmosphere of the music. They also contain a hint of that grunge aesthetic which reveals itself in the driven but almost lazy-sounding vocal approach. Aside from the songwriting, Lee’s vocals are one of the release’s highlights.
On the side of instrumentation, the guitar solo found halfway through the song adds an extra layer of somber to the track that ultimately lets it unfold in front of your ears. All of a sudden, the main riff dissipates and you are left with a dreary, more slower section created by a slow bass strum and a background lead guitar melody. The vocals are again introduced but they are delivered with a more angsty approach which ties in to the tale of the song which describes the witch’s dark powers and the trouble associated with handling it.
My one complaint about the release lies in regard to the very short pause found within the intro and end of “Women of the Wand”. The band sets out to build a sorrow harmony which evolves rather nicely, but they introduce a brief inclusion of absolute silence where the music pauses for a second, and then comes back with a massive riff. While I understand what they were going for, and it doesn’t necessarily ruin the moment for me, I can’t help but feel like the song would have a better flow without the inclusion. While the brief silent pause really emphasizes the riff that follows it, the segment ultimately takes away from the flow of the track. The same can be said about the similar section towards the end, which mirrors the first one. This is however my single qualm with an otherwise phenomenal release.
Women of the Wand is a strong step in the right direction for the Sydney-based stoner/doom band. While they are still new to the scene, Potion have well proved their worth within the subgenre with this dreary and emotion-provoking release. Make sure to keep this band on your radar, as they are hopefully due to come out with a full-length sometime within the near future.