Dusted Reviews

Witch - Witch

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Witch

Album: Witch

Label: Tee Pee

Review date: Mar. 5, 2006

A couple of years ago, I witnessed the one- or two-song reunion of Deep Wound, the early hard-core punk band and Dinosaur predecessor that was, until recently, the last band in which J. Mascis had regularly played drums. Despite a certain amount of nostalgia, despite a bit too much jovial interplay between the long-estranged Mascis and Lou Barlow, despite the passage of 20 years or more, it was clear that Deep Wound was a band that seriously rocked – and one of the reasons was Mascis' take-no-prisoners approach to the drum kit. Grey hair flying, ropey arms halfway to the ceiling, kick drum jumping ominously with every monster punch, there was nothing held back. So, if your first question about Witch, a 1970s leaning, guitar-god-worshiping slab of stoned-out metal, is what is Mascis doing behind the drums, the answer is “kicking ass.” The drums are every bit as important as the swirling masses of guitar, the melodic howl of fairytale vocals, the crunch of insinuating bass. The fact that nearly every cut starts with an undifferentiated buzz of guitar feedback – and gains shape only when Mascis' jackboot rhythms come in – makes the case.

Mascis and his friend Dave Sweetapple build a kind of shuddering, towering, Sabbath-redolent backbeat; they bring in Kyle Thomas and Asa Irons of southern Vermont's folk collective Feathers to give it arc and mythology. Consider that "Seer" erupts from a distorted howl of guitar, only taking form as the slow march of bass and drums arrive. The melody is all dark-toned modal menace – if you play it on the piano it is almost entirely made up of black keys – the guitar line reinforced by Thomas' careening vocals. There's a sweetness, an organic naturalness to the way he sings that seems at odds with the crushing heaviness, though he does establish his metal credentials with one vertiginous yowl, swooping from middle C to high F like Plant on an opera trip.

"Seer" is the disc's longest cut at nearly eight minutes, and like several others, has a prog-leaning, multi-part structure. The initial riff builds and builds, with Mascis' drumming rupturing into rifle-shot, three-based patterns and guitar solos ricocheting everywhere. Then about halfway through, everything stops, and all we hear are scratchy bass notes, moving down the scale in triplets, as muted feedback squalls in the background. The piece finally returns to its monolithic opening riff, cuts dead again and starts over, leading into a final sung verse. It feels not as much planned as involuntary, like the band was really trying to leave that monster opening behind, but kept getting sucked into it again and again.

The best songs here are sluggishly grand, moving at measured pace to overwhelming builds, yet never abandoning melody entirely. "The Black Saint," for instance, has an instantly hummable verse that floats song-like on top of the dirge and drone. Similarly, "Rip Van Winkle" slips shred-worthy peals of guitar and gut-shocking onslaughts of drums into a serenely beautiful song. There are time-bending shifts in mood and tempo, fractured spaces for full-on instrument assault, and yet the melody itself is bucolic and tranquil. This link between folk-droning Feathers and pedal-altered metal is never clearer than at this album's gorgeous closer, "Isadora." Here finger-picked guitar arpeggios embellish translucent lines of melancholy, a cymbal roll for mystery in the background. Yes, the cut ruptures, midway through transforming itself into a faster, more distorted, metallic stomp, but we've all seen what's behind the volume by this point, and we know that there are beautiful songs hidden there.

Witch wouldn't be the first heavy band to incorporate elements of folk, and there's no way it fits into the "folk metal" category defined by bands like Skyclad and Cruachan. Still, there's something really interesting about the way these two conflicting styles fit together here, a groove for headbangers with flowers in their hair.

By Jennifer Kelly

Other Reviews of Witch


Lazy Bones!!

Read More

View all articles by Jennifer Kelly

Find out more about Tee Pee

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.