Tuesday, 11 April 2017

REVIEW: Witchapter - "Spellcaster" (EP)

By: Stephen Murray

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 04/07/2017
Label: Black Bow Records

“Spellcaster” CD//DD track listing:

1). Veiled Aggressor
2). Through Smoke and Sulfur
3). Everywhere I Look I See My Grave

The Review:

There is a Riff. It’s of the swampy kind that jacks directly into what remains functional of your richly barbecued, southern fried central nervous system. It appears about three minutes into the record’s opening song, ‘Veiled Aggressor,’ but you’d be doing it a disservice to skip ahead. The angry hardcore hammering of the first minutes leads into it perfectly, and is more than a vehicle to get you there; it’s a foot stomper of its own. Little wonder that this was the track used to signal Witchapter’s arrival.

The band’s debut release is the latest thing on Black Bow Records menu. So fresh, in fact, their first official outing was only a couple of weeks ago when they opened for Italy’s blackened warlocks Hierophant in a rather badly attended basement beneath a bar on the Margate coast. Having played their three extant songs (choosing a set order that took ‘Veiled Aggressor’ from the top and dropped it in to close) which clock in a little over the 20 minute mark all told, I couldn’t help but wonder in what order these songs were written.

The second track (by EP reckoning, not live), ‘Through Smoke and Sulphur,’ continues to bring us more bile from the bayou. The opening bass shakes the eardrum like having a cheetah purr in your ear (to check that for yourself, hunt down Chris Watson’s field recordings), the guitar quiet but clear much further up the stave before it cuts loose with a riff and tone like Son House setting about a 40 foot pipe organ plumbed into a saw mill.

But it’s the third and final track that seems at odds. It fills a space roughly that of the other two combined and moves away from swamplands to somewhere more sombre. A wind ravaged moor, perhaps. Live, comparisons with Grief were made, but listening to the record that’s not quite right. As a rule of thumb I would say it leans more in that direction: sombre, pulsating melody that falls off the pentatonic path and deep growling. But unlike the other songs here it fails to distinguish itself amongst the merry rabble of competent doom now happening.

And this is where questions of writing order come in. Is the close of this EP indicative of what’s to come from Witchapter, or was it simply born of an early doomfluenced jam and it is really the hellish swamp metal that will define their future? I am looking forward to finding out.

“Spellcaster” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook