Seattle's Bell Witch, a
guitar-less duo of bass and drums fronted by
bassist and vocalist Dylan Desmond,
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
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
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.
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