When you hear Uta Plotkin’s soulful wail, you’ll wish more doom metal bands had female singers.

Anyone who questions a doom-metal band with a female singer should shut up and listen to Witch Mountain. Uta Plotkin gives the plodding Portland, Oregon, quartet something that most male frontmen of the genre lack—soul. And we’re not talking about the affected vocal gymnastics of estrogen-charged R&B: Whether she’s hitting high, wailing notes or pained primal growls, Plotkin belts it out with raw, palpable feeling—but she never overdoes it. Alongside Rob Wrong’s titanic guitar sludge and a thunderous rhythm section, she often sounds like another instrument. Plotkin knows when to lay back and when to detonate.

Since joining in 2009, Plotkin and Witch Mountain have played with doom gods like Pentagram, High on Fire, Spirit Caravan, Electric Wizard, YOB, Weedeater, Eyehategod, and Blue Öyster Cult. The band’s sophomore album, South of Salem, was awarded the “#4 Best Metal Album of 2011” by NPR. What does National Public Radio know about metal? Let’s just say that you’ve never truly partied until doing knife-hits and whippits with Terry Gross backstage at a Saint Vitus show. Seriously though, NPR aptly described Wrong’s guitar playing: “…[His] riffs want to bore into your skull, crack open a beer and make you a lifer.”

“Psycho Animundi,” the nine-minute opening track from Witch Mountain's forthcoming album, Mobile of Angels, serves as a solid reminder that even Black Sabbath started out as a blues band. No, this isn’t the kind of song that G.E. Smith would jam along with. But it takes those Sabbath-esque roots, elongates them, drop-tunes them, distorts them, and layers Plotkin’s black magic all over the top. And then there are her spoken-word bits and fragments of self-harmonies, which sound simply bewitching. witchmountain.bandcamp.com

Plus, the Fontaines D.C. axeman explains why he’s reticent to fix the microphonic pickup in his ’66 Fender Coronado.

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The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

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