Review Summary: “The way is not easy, I know, but I will take you by the hand and lead you through the cruel light into the velvet darkness.”
Blending drone doom and sludge, Seattle’s Bell Witch consists of two members: Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and Adrian Guerra (drums, vocals). The duo creates a musical trio of bass, percussion and vocals that evoke feelings of despair, passion, hope and hopelessness. Juxtaposed images of black and white, discordant, yet blending into an abyss of such balance and structure. Bringing gooseflesh, chills and music to get lost in--or even to
--with the band’s debut album Longing
. At times I truly wonder how only three instruments can create such opaque music. This is one of those times.
Bell Witch is perhaps best introduced by the suitably placed opening track ‘Bails (of Flesh),’ which runs as a juggernaut ticking just over twenty minutes. Encompassing almost everything that one needs to go in level-headed to the rest of Longing
, ‘Bails (of Flesh)’ characterises the band perfectly as melancholic riffs roll in like the plague on the bodies of the dead. Slow, heavy, the reverb on the bass feeds back into the microphone and creates a steady rising atmosphere. Guerra’s minimalistic drum work complements Desmond’s bass lines to bundle into a deep, droning style before crashing into a strong, much more inharmonious section of bellowed growls and chugging bass riffs. Quieting down again and the raw base of this music is quite moving in its execution, incomprehensible chanting soaring back over the original riff as it all comes full circle. All of this drones on and gradually erodes away into nothing but the slight crashing of cymbals, then Bell Witch throws us head on into a jarring, cacophonous body of thick, riffs that almost feel like they’re dripping from the bass gradually and sedate.
Little other elements are introduced throughout the record. ‘Rows (of Endless Waves)’ brings with it a more varied harsh vocal style, executing screeching highs as well as the dark, guttural lows on the opening track, as well as being the album’s prime demonstration of clean vocals. Both vocalists taking their time to shine and bring forth very different and very welcome flavours in their vocal styles, making the track stand out as one of the album’s best. As well as the track featuring slightly more prominent and sludge oriented bass work with tastefully done licks outside of the regular drone repetition of melody alongside dissonance. Fourth track ‘Beneath the Mask’ exploiting the band’s minimalist tendencies: the feedback of the microphone buzzing dully with a downtempo and lucid recurring riff, which serves as the backdrop for a powerful use of sampling (“Who are you beneath your mask?”/”Is my costume such a disguise that don’t recognise me?”)
lowest point is on the track ‘Longing (the River of Ash).’ This track strips down most of what the two opening tracks built up and feels a bit monotonous by the end, which doesn’t fit in with the effectiveness of the band’s repetitious droning capabilities expressed all throughout the rest of the album. It brings back the same chanting presented on ‘Bails (of Flesh),’ but doesn’t quite feel as precise or as well-thought out, just sorting of being there and the tracks drags, leaden with an uninteresting rumbling song structure.
shines, it really
shines, bringing forth some of the most emotionally powerful metal experienced all year. At its lowest, it’s still wholly enjoyable despite dragging slightly. It does tend to detract from the experience and immersion a little, but isn’t a massive detriment to the album’s overall quality. Dark nights and long midnight walks will find themselves hand in hand with Longing
, the two clearing the thought process for a little forlorn wandering and a rewarding listening experience. Bell Witch have crafted an utterly beautiful and admirable debut, may we only hope they continue developing this sound.