The forthcoming LP edition of Swamp Witch‘s The Slithering Bog — out soon on Tribunal of the Axe — isn’t technically a reissue. Though the Californian death-doom outfit’s second full-length was released on cassette in 2015 via Transylvanian Tapes, the new version, mastered for vinyl and encompassing in its atmospheric density such that it makes even the air it fills seem heavier, is the first on a vinyl format. Built of two songs on its first side and four on its second, it’s a record that revels in the seemingly wretched. Cave-echo growls, lumbering riffs, and fervent plod are conjured with a depth of low end that feels sludged in its roots, but has turned to something even more rotten and vicious and crawling, and as the rolling “Strange Cults” leads the way into the trenches that follow, it is the utter hopelessness of the thing that stands out most. It’s like that part of the sea where the fish had to evolve their own light because the sun couldn’t get down that far.
Currently comprised of vocalist James, guitarist Ben, bassist Jacob and drummer Phil, Swamp Witch recorded The Slithering Bog two years ago in July 2014. They made their debut with Gnosis in 2011, but the second album, as it should, expands intensely on the first, digging into more of a classic death-doom style, as heard in the mournful guitar of “Marsh of Delusion,” or the depressive buzz that emerges as “Slither into the Circle” leads off side B. The play from side A to B in the vinyl — moving from longer tracks to shorter ones — isn’t to be ignored, as it signals intent on the part of Swamp Witch essentially to overwhelm their listenership as much as possible at the outset and then move outward stylistically from there. To wit, the snare work on “Slither into the Circle” adds a subtle bounce cutting through all the decay and crash surrounding, and though it cuts the pace seemingly in half (actual percentages unknown), the subsequent “Bayou Tomb” lurches out some of the hugest and most engrossing tones The Slithering Bog has to offer, not necessarily moving away from the other material atmospherically, but expanding the context of the release overall and adding a sense of dynamic to the consistent, obscure ambience.
That context is pretty much set by the time Swamp Witch get down to the closing duo of “Dead Root” and “Lost Symbols,” but especially the latter continues to add layers of personality to The Slithering Bog through some post-Aldebaran or even earlier Novembers Doom-style guitar melody, not quite as emotionally wrought as the latter, and still a good deal rawer in overall approach, but potentially on a like-minded sonic path, though I’m not sure I’d trade the utter brutality of low-end they bring to bear across The Slithering Bog in favor of existential woes — it would obviously depend on how their songwriting continues to develop and the lineup takes shape and/or continues to discover its chemistry. In any case, Swamp Witch‘s second LP carries with it a tome-style impression and so feels worthy of the vinyl treatment it has received. No doubt its plunge will be too deep for many to take, but that’s precisely the intent, and The Slithering Bog lives up to it with artistry and without compromise.
The decaying sounds of The Slithering Bog were captured during July 2014 at Earhammer Studios in Oakland, California by Greg Wilkinson (Brainoil, Annihilation Time, Noothgrush, et al) and mastered at Trakworx in San Francisco by Justin Weiss (Ludicra, Slough Feg, Cormorant, et al). Initially released on cassette last year via Transylvanian Tapes, the collection of nightmare rituals that made this release so necessary and bizarre has finally oozed its way onto vinyl on three color variants (black, purple haze and swamp green) thanks to Tribunal Of The Axe Records who will unleash the offering later this month.
The Slithering Bog Track Listing:
1. Strange Cults
2. Marsh Of Delusion
1. Slither Into The Circle
2. Bayou Tomb
3. Dead Root
4. Lost Symbols