Raucously majestic and seductively intimidating, UK band Witch Charmer prove that not only was their previous acclaimed EP not a flash in the pan but that it was only the teaser to greater things with debut album The Great Depression. Five tracks which roar and hazily smoulder from a gripping fusion of doom, stoner, and heavy metal, the album is a riveting and scintillating incitement which musically stands out from the crowd but vocally sculpts a corner of its own to transfix from. Led by the magnetic vocal talent of Kate McKeown and assisted rather than backed by the grippingly individual tones of the band, it is an unpredictable and intriguing mix which only accentuates the raw and elegant extremes of the compelling sounds around them. This style of music is quite rich and thick in quality bands right now but the Sunderland quintet easily push themselves to the forefront of the masses with their exhilarating release.
Formed in 2012, the band consists of drummer/vocalist Dave McQuillan, guitarists/vocalists Len Lennox and Adam Clarke, and bassist Richard Maher alongside McKeown. Debut EP Euphoric Curse of last year drew in eager attention and acclaim with its stirring and intensive mesh of weighty rhythms and tantalising grooves aligned to pungent riffs and their compelling vocal mix. It proved irresistible to a great many but was just the base from which the Tony Reed (Mos Generator, Stone Axe) mixed and mastered The Great Depression has grown to greater heights for a heady captivation.
Themed around a “dark satirical view of this world gone mad”, album and band take little time in enslaving ears and imagination with opener Suffer. From its first breath it is spilling an enthralling groove which is soon surrounded by imposing rhythms and a sonic intensity which in turn sparks that initial lure to expel a greater flame to its potency. Just as swiftly the dramatic and impressive voice of McKeown joins the evolving narrative of the track, hot melodic designs alongside flirtatious grooves wrapping her rich tones. A brawling call from one of the band brings another thick texture to the song, his raw vocal squall the extreme opposite to the charm of McKeown but an impressing companion which seems to ignite another bout of virulent urgency and aggression in the sounds. Sharing the lead of the track for a fair portion, the two vocalists grab the attention but not enough to detract from the addictive enticement of the grooves and the sonic enterprise raging around them.
It is a mighty start but soon shown a clean pair of heels by the thrilling presence of The Cull. A more predatory gait is revealed by the track, its slow doom bred crawl an oppressive yet welcoming shadow through which McKeown’s voice shines like a beacon. It is the vocal alliance which grips ears most of all though, certainly initially, the bruising growl heard in the first song returning with other allies bringing a punkish squall and a clean presentation to dual and flirt with the superb presence of the front lady. The track shows it is not just about that though, that like the release it stands out just as potently through its grooves and scorched atmospheres to create a riveting maelstrom of beauty and intimidation. Like a mix of Jess & the Ancient Ones and Electric Wizard with Triggerman, the track is a blistering provocation soaked in a smouldering blues haze and ferocious heavy psychedelic metal.
Both A Watching Of Wolves and …To Death (I’ll Drink) keep the temperature and might of the album ablaze and the passions aflame, the first arriving on a hypnotic stride of thumping rhythms within a humid tapestry of sonic invention. It takes little time to clad those lingering lures in a thick swamp of dark grooves and rapacious intensity which in turn is veined by melodic mystique enticing and infectious virulence. It is a merger of darkness and light, of brooding emotions and joyful revelry which is seamlessly entwined to create an incendiary incitement for thoughts and passions. Its successor is scintillating; the bass with a delicious bestial twang to its tone leading ears and thoughts into a haze of sonic expression and addictive rhythmic baiting. The song proceeds to lap the senses in waves of energy and seductive enticing, its potency never wavering in success and strength as grooves, riffs, and vocals weave and tease like an adulterous temptress with only eyes for its victim. The rhythmic imagination of McQuillan is inescapable as he frames and veins the track with unpredictable and engrossing bait matched by the delicious vocals.
The best track on the album it is soon rivalled by the closing Stare Into The Sun, a slow enticement which is even more of a salacious temptation than its predecessor in moves and grooves at times but ultimately is a persistently changing and evolving groove fest across a landscape of burning melodies and caustic riffs under a rhythmic thunder. It is a stunning end to a sensational release, though the album does have one final brief treat in hidden acoustic track Architects of our own Existence.
The Great Depression has everything fans of the likes of Black Sabbath and Goatsnake through to Electric Wizard and Blood Ceremony would devour in a second but also much more to bring a fresh air to doom and stoner flavoured heavy metal. Witch Charmer is a major force in the making and their album the first slab of irrepressible evidence.
The Great Depression is available from September 1st on Argonauta Records and at http://witchcharmer.bandcamp.com
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