PURPLE HILL WITCH
‘Purple Hill Witch’
The Church Within Records (27 June 2014)
“Have a drink and watch the universe end.” So say Purple Hill Witch on their song ‘Final Procession’ – and it’s a line that sums up the band in a nutshell: gloomy, whimsical and quite possibly very drunk! On this their debut full-length album, the Norwegian trio channel the likes of Lord Vicar and Witchfinder General to create an enjoyable trad doom vibe that flirts with dirty NWOBHM and gets groovy while staying on the decidedly miserable side of stoner.
The song ‘The Landing’ has a particularly strong feel of Lord Vicar (with whom the band has toured), being both epic and awesome. With stirring riffs and rich guitar tones, it floods over you like lava, even launching into a late key change and then a tempo switch to really get the blood pumping and keep you guessing. This is probably the most satisfying track on the album, although ‘Queen Of The Hill’ is also a bouncing monster of effects-drenched guitars, bubbling bass lines and clean, powerful vocals. And ‘Astral Booze’ is a stomping quest for existential answers (or possibly for another glass of ale).
Other parts of this self-titled debut, including the instrumental passages, come across as solid, if unspectacular, Sabbath homage. The inspired and adventurous work of bass player Andreas is a stand-out feature, reminiscent of Mr G Butler himself, while the riffs hark back to some of Iommi’s most miserable musings. The simplistic guitar solos, though, serve only to remind the listener just how impressive Iommi’s own are, and the drums usually add little other than keeping time without complication.
A number of songs on this album lack a distinctive personality and a few of the riffs are a little predictable. That said, while there may not be much variety on offer, the joyful musicianship and expert vocals generally keep things feeling fresh. The aforementioned track ‘Final Procession’ demonstrates quite a low-key and chilled attitude to humankind’s ultimate demise. Its fuzziness is gentle and relentless – like being mauled to death by a baby panda – and the song is enjoyable but not especially memorable. Purple Hill Witch themselves are relentlessly old-fashioned, following a blueprint that was set out 40-plus years ago and adding a few dashes of their own sense of fun and energy.