Bell Witch - _Four Phantoms_
(Profound Lore, 2015)
by: Dan Lake (8 out of 10)
It's time for one of those depressing confessions: while I love listening to funereally paced doom, I abhor writing about it. With other forms of music, it's possible to describe dynamics, tempo shifts and the performance choices made by members of the band. With this kind of sorrowful, mind-dissolving doom, you know what you're going to get before you ever press play. If you're anything like me, you crave it. It's not that all this stuff sounds the same (though, to some of you, it does) or even reaches for the same emotional pitches, but the words needed to explain the music's impact tend to get pretty repetitive.

Bell Witch's second full-length improves on all the promising elements of their 2012 album, _Longing_. It's slow (check) and crushing (check), but it rises above the crowd of similar mourners by employing some extraordinary tear-wringing guitar leads and pairing simple, plaintive singing with those cavernous extreme vocals. In the hammy fists of lesser artists, these ingredients could easily become a mush of squandered intent, but Bell Witch have the songwriting chops to turn in arrangements of astounding beauty. The best music takes listeners on a journey, scooping them out of routine reality and shifting the world's colors so everything looks different afterwards. Bell Witch succeed in providing that journey. There are quiet melodic moments underscored with bassy rumble, then bursts of crevice-filling distortion and regal clean guitar swirling around volcanic vocals. The songs are through-composed, with later tracks continuing thematic threads from earlier sections, and those connections are made stronger by the songs interconnected titles. "Suffocation" comes in two 23-minute behemoths, labelled "A Burial" and "A Drowning"; "Judgement" is about half as long, and is broken into "In Fire" and "In Air".

But really, words be damned. Who needs words? Take in Paolo Girardi's fantastic cover art and settle in for an hour of harrowing and hollowing funeral doom.


(article published 1/8/2015)

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