Sunday, 4 February 2018

Bell Witch "Mirror Reaper" (2017)


Seattle based Doom Metal band Bell Witch have topped many lists for best Metal album of 2017. The artwork so reminiscent of Zdzislaw Beksinski and heaps of praise lured me into a record fondly familiar, its acoustic drones reminding me of Earth's Hibernaculum. Packaged as a double album it comprises of two lengthy songs totaling over eighty minutes of deathly slow and bleak Doom Metal that goes to the extremes of pace with several seconds marking the distance between the striking of snares and cymbals. It flirts with temporal timing and lets notes ring out and bellow as the distortion guitars, despite being fairly soft, drone out into a textural fuzz before the next strike is drawn. Its performance is impressive, the art of playing slow seems flawless as the group coordinate immensely slow tempos that seem organically stretch and sway but it is the lethargic nature of the music that makes these instantaneous shifts dissipate from focus.

Tempos aside, Mirror Reaper has a strong current of sorrow and sadness in its atmosphere which drifts between other worlds as the slowest moments yield little presences for melodies to pervade this somber dismay. In doing so an enticing atmosphere is illuminated by distant, sinister chants sung with a choral cleanliness. It does find its counterpart in drawn out gruesome growls, rumbling like a textural layer in the aesthetics. A few grisly howls an shrill screams erupt in one violent, conflicted moment in the music but it is mostly an instrumental affair as the sluggish drones of elongated notes crawls onwards.

For me, this album is interesting, indulgent and oddly soothing, however it never musters anything that quite hits the nerves and that is the same for most Doom and Drone music. The first track's opening twenty minutes is rather enchanting but as the song drifts inwards for grit and gusto its melodies and musters of aggression dispel that atmosphere. The second song is stripped back with faint guitars and ambient echos painting a chilling setting for a lone voice to sing a serine sadness with an almost heavenly voice. For all its beauty, the slow, spacious and minimalist approach sucks much of this away but that is a person preference. It drifts into a morbid, dirge organ solo that really drives home a current of sadness but at this length into the record my attention is a little worn out. I enjoyed checking it out and very much appreciate the brilliance on display but its not quite for me.

Rating: 5/10

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