‘The Great Depression’
Argonauta Records (OUT 1st September 2014)
Is Witch Charmer’s first full length album bewitching, charming, great… or depressing? Maybe a little bit of all of those things. This British band, whose debut EP ‘Euphoric Curse’ was met with sage nods of approval a few months ago, delivers some groove-laden, rough-edged stoner doom that proudly waves a flag for occult rock.
Kate McKeown’s stylish, beguiling vocals flutter and sway like a possessed Jex Thoth, counter-balancing the thumping, monolithic riffs. There is an echo of Sacrilege’s ‘Turn Back Trilobyte’ in her understated but moving delivery, particularly when set against the band’s almost-thrashy attitude. And the frequent male vs female vocal duelling is both strong and charismatic enough to keep the listener guessing and maintain a kind of dramatic tension, as if watching the songs being acted out.
In a few parts ‘The Great Depression’ sounds a little too safe and familiar, but elsewhere, such as on the standout track ‘To Death (I’ll Drink)’ things get more curious. This song adds a sweetly whimsical brand of woeful exasperation to a splendidly twisted love song that is reminscent of Woods Of Ypres. It is perhaps the most idiosyncratic composition on the album, and certainly the most memorable as a result.
Mos Generator’s Tony Reed handled the mixing and mastering of ‘The Great Depression’, and he has helped to create a kind of overpowering soup, which is fine if you’re hungry, although it removes some of the sharpness that might allow Witch Charmer’s groove to kick in more strongly at times. Or maybe it’s just that a one or two of the solid stoner riffs – which come in wave after wave – could be tightened into something more potent in order to maintain the high level of energy that can be found elsewhere on the album.
The album closes with a 14-minute doom marathon, ‘Stare Into The Sun’ – a track which showcases many facets of the band’s repertoire from Vitus-like heaviness to mesmerising melody. ‘The Great Depression’ is not quite consistently excellent, but there are lots of excellent bits that suggest Witch Charmer remain an exciting prospect.