Bell Witch

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Longing (2012), 6/10
Four Phantoms (2015), 6.5/10
Mirror Reaper (2017), 7/10
Stygian Bough Volume I (2020), 5/10

Seattle's Bell Witch, a guitar-less duo of bass and drums fronted by bassist and vocalist Dylan Desmond, delivered Longing (Profound Lore, 2012), one the heaviest, most distorted doom-metal in the history of the genre (the 13-minute Rows Of Endless Waves), except that the doom was mitigated by fragile elegies (the 12-minute Longing The River Of Ash). The 21-minute Bails first introduces melodic bass meditations and then has the growling vocalist repeat them, but after ten minutes it doesn't quite know where to go. Despite its limitations, this became one of the most influential albums of "funeral doom", next to works by Skepticism, Thergothon, Ahab, Disembowlment and Esoteric.

Four Phantoms (2015) injected more claustrophobia in the project. Suffocation a Burial I - Awoken (22:29) is two pieces in one: first there's a melodic theme of giant riffs that collides for nine minutes with crushing drums and beastly growls; and then a desperate scream leads into a more complex section in which both growls and clean vocals duet with the melodic theme. Judgement in Fire I - Garden (10:18) intones a recitation in an atmosphere of gong-like bass tones that has the quality of a black mass. Suffocation a Drowning II - Somniloquy (22:55) is a multi-part fantasia that begins with an almost folkish melody sung in clean vocals and, after eleven minutes and some bombastic shouts, briefly turns into a sort of demonic dance, before returning to the clean vocals and the folkish melody. The growling vocals dominate Judgement in Air II - Felled (10:45), where the bass weaves insistently a lullaby theme that eventually ends in agonizing drones.

Mirror Reaper (Profound Lore, 2017) indulged in the more melancholy aspects of Desmond's bass playing with little contribution from the vocals. The 48-minute As Above, probably their most effective composition yet, can be divided into two songs. The 17-minute As boasts one of the most atmospheric openings of the genre, followed by a macabre growl which gets answered by Erik Moggridge's monk-like invocation, and then followed by a slow instrumental march into catacombs. The 30-minute Above begins with another lengthy section of calm strumming over sparse drumbeats, followed by another monk-like invocation. The growl comes later, announced by crushing drumbeats and highlighted by anguished bass riffs, but largely disappears as the guitar becomes more melodic. Erik Moggridge's dreamy acoustic guitar and gentle clean vocals open the 35-minute So Below with an organ droning in the background and sparse psychedelic drumming. His slow elegy continues to dominate the piece until the end.

Stygian Bough Volume I (2020) documents a full-fledged collaboration with Erik Moggridge, aka Aerial Ruin, a dark-folk specialist based in Oregon who had released Valleys of the Earth (2011), Ash of your Cares (2015) and Nameless Sun (2017). His acoustic guitar and vocals are best matched with Bell Witch's doom-metal in the 19-minute The Bastard Wind, whereas the 22-minute Heaven Torn Low and the 19-minute The Unbodied Air overstay their welcome.

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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