Bell Witch Announce Massive Eight-Week European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 22nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

bell witch

This will be one of two times that at least some of these dates will be posted, as happens from time to time on a run that features more than one killer band with stuff to talk about, but to look at the spread of touring to be taken on by Seattle’s Bell Witch, I’ll just say that there are a lot of ways to say a band is tight, like they’re friends, chosen-family, etc., but making it publicly known that you’re willing to spend upwards of eight weeks in another human being’s close company, in any situation let alone crisscrossing Europe on tour, is a particularly resonant one.

Bell Witch found new grandiose lows in last year’s Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate (review here), and now that I think about it, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that at some point on such a tour the inevitable follow-up might manifest. On the other hand maybe they’re just going to go and I don’t know anything, as usual. Flailing at guesses. Rampant speculation.

But it’s an event either way. Check it out:

Bell Witch full euro tour

In March we embark on an 8 week odyssey across Europe. From the frostbitten North to the Hellenic land of myths in the South, the Emerald Isle to the Balkan states we’re playing many cities for the first time ever…

Along the way we’ll be joined for stretches by friends old & new in FVNERALS, Knoll, Esoteric, Thantifaxath & The Keening. We’re excited to share the stage with bands who bring something truly unique & powerful to their music.

Tickets are on sale now from

We can’t wait to see new & familiar faces alike.

28 – Dresden, DE – Chemiefabrik *
29 – Bremen, DE – Lagerhaus *
30 – Copenhagen, DK – Alice CPH *
31 – Oslo, NO – Inferno Fest
1 – Göteborg, SE – Musikens Hus *
2 – Aarhus, DK – Radar *
4 – Oberhausen, DE – Ebertbad *
5 – Diksmuide, BE – 4AD *
6 – Brighton, UK – The Arch ^
7 – Bristol UK – Exchange ^
9 – Dublin, IE – Academy 2
10 – Limerick, IE – Dolan
12 – Glasgow, UK – Room 2 ^
13 – Manchester, UK – Rebellion ^
14 – Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club ^
15 – London, UK – The Dome ^ +
16 – Namur, BE – Belvedere
17 – Eindhoven, NL – Effenaar
19 – Tours, FR – Le Temps Machine
20 – Paris, FR – Petit Bain =
21 – Nantes, FR – Le Ferrailleur =
22 – Toulouse, FR – Le Rex =
23 – Portugalete, ES – Groove #
24 – Barroselas, PT – SWR Fest
26 – Madrid, ES – Nazca #
27 – Barcelona, ES – Sala Upload #
28 – Grenoble, FR – Le Ciel #
29 – Martigny, CH – Caves Du Manoir #
30 – Luzern, CH – Sedel #
2 – Wien, AT – Arena #
3 – Budapest, HU – A38 #
4 – Zagreb, HR – AKC Attack #
6 – Sofia, BG – Club Singles #
7 – Istanbul, TR – Babylon #
9 – Thessalonki, GR – Eightball Club #
10 – Athens, GR – Temple #
11 – Larissa, GR – Skyland #
13 – Caserta, IT – Lizard #
14 – Pescara, IT – Scumm #
15 – Ravenna, IT – Bronson #
16 – Treviso, IT – Altroquando #
17 – Linz, AT – STWST #
18 – Brno, CZ – Kabinet Muz #
^ with Knoll
+ with Esoteric
= with Thantifaxath
# with The Keening

Bell Witch is Bassist Dylan Desmond and Drummer Jesse Shreibman.

Bell Witch, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate (2023)

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Quarterly Review: Bell Witch, Plainride, Benthic Realm, Cervus, Unsafe Space Garden, Neon Burton, Thousand Vision Mist, New Dawn Fades, Aton Five, Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Welcome to day two of the Summer 2023 Quarterly Review. Yesterday was a genuine hoot — I didn’t realize I had packed it so full of bands’ debut albums, and not repeating myself in noting that in the reviews was a challenge — but blah blah words words later we’re back at it today for round two of seven total.

As I write this, my house is newly emerged from an early morning tornado warning and sundry severe weather alerts, flooding, wind, etc., with that. In my weather head-canon, tornados don’t happen here — because they never used to — but one hit like two towns over a week or so ago, so I guess anything’s possible. My greater concern would be flooding or downed trees or branches damaging the house. I laughed with The Patient Mrs. that of course a tornado would come right after we did the kitchen floor and put the sink back.

We got The Pecan up to experience and be normalized into this brave new world of climate horror. We didn’t go to the basement, but it probably won’t be the last time we talk about whether or not we need to do so. Yes, planet Earth will take care of itself. It will do this by removing the problematic infection over a sustained period of time. Only trouble is humans are the infection.

So anyway, happy Tuesday. Let’s talk about some records.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Bell Witch, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate

bell witch future's shadow part 1 the clandestine gate

Cumbersome in its title and duly stately as it unfurls 83 minutes of Billy Anderson-recorded slow-motion death-doom soul destroy/rebuild, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate is not the first longform single-song work from Seattle’s Bell Witch, but the core duo of drummer/vocalist Jesse Shreibman and bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond found their path on 2017’s landmark Mirror Reaper (review here) and have set themselves to the work of expanding on that already encompassing scope. Moving from its organ intro through willfully lurching, chant-topped initial verses, the piece breaks circa 24 minutes to minimalist near-silence, building itself back up until it seems to blossom fully at around 45 minutes in, but it breaks to organ, rises again, and ultimately seems to not so much to collapse as to be let go into its last eight minutes of melancholy standalone bass. Knowing this is only the first part of a trilogy makes Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate feel even huger and more opaque, but while its unrelenting atmospheric bleakness will be listenable for a small percentage of the general populace, there’s no question Bell Witch are continuing to push the limits of what they do. Loud or quiet, they are consuming. One should expect no less in the next installment.

Bell Witch on Facebook

Profound Lore Records website


Plainride, Plainride

plainride self titled

Some records are self-titled because the band can’t think of a name. Plainride‘s Plainride is more declarative. Self-released ahead of a Ripple Music issue to accord with timing as the German trio did a Spring support stint with Corrosion of Conformity, the 10-song outing engages with funk, blues rock, metal, prog and on and on and on, and feels specifically geared toward waking up any and all who hear it. The horns blasting in “Fire in the Sky” are a clear signal of that, though one should also allow for the mellowing of “Wanderer,” the interlude “You Wanna…” the acoustic noodler “Siebengebirge,” or the ballady closer “The Lilies” as a corresponding display of dynamic. But the energy is there in “Hello, Operator,” “Ritual” — which reminds of Gozu in its soulful vocals — and through the longer “Shepherd” and the subsequent regrounding in the penultimate “Hour of the Mûmakil,” and it is that kick-in-the-pants sensibility that most defines Plainride as a realization on the part of the band. They sound driven, hungry, expansive and professional, and they greet their audience with a full-on “welcome to the show” mindset, then proceed to try to shake loose the rules of genre from within. Not a minor ambition, but Plainride succeed in letting craft lead the charge in their battle against mediocrity. They don’t universally hit their marks — not that rock and roll ever did or necessarily should — but they take actual chances here and are all the more invigorating for that.

Plainride on Facebook

Ripple Music store


Benthic Realm, Vessel

Benthic Realm Vessel

Massachusetts doomers Benthic Realm offer their awaited first full-length with Vessel, and the hour-long 2LP is broad and crushing enough to justify the wait. It’s been five years since 2018’s We Will Not Bow (review here), and the three-piece of bassist Maureen Murphy (ex-Second Grave, ex-Curse the Son, etc.), guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder (ex-Second Grave, ex-Warhorse) and drummer Dan Blomquist (also Conclave) conjure worthy expanse with a metallic foundation, Van Guilder likewise effective in a deathly scream and melodic delivery as “Traitors Among Us” quickly affirms, and the band shifting smoothly between the lurch of “Summon the Tide” and speedier processions like “Course Correct,” the title-track or the penultimate “What Lies Beneath,” the album ultimately more defined by mood and the epic nature of Benthic Realm‘s craft than a showcase of tempo on either side. That is, regardless of pace, they deliver with force throughout the album, and while it might be a couple years delayed, it stands readily among the best debuts of 2023.

Benthic Realm on Facebook

Benthic Realm on Bandcamp


Cervus, Shifting Sands

Cervus Shifting Sands

Cervus follow 2022’s impressive single “Cycles” (posted here) with the three-song EP Shifting Sands, and the Amsterdam heavy psych unit use the occasion to continue to build a range around their mellow-grooving foundation. Beginning quiet and languid and exploratory on “Nirvana Dunes,” which bursts to voluminous life after its midpoint but retains its fluidity, the five-piece of guitarists Jan Woudenberg and Dennis de Bruin, bassist Tom Mourik, keyboardist/guitarist Ton van Rijswijk and drummer Rogier Henkelman saving extra push for middle cut “Tempest,” reminding some of how The Machine are able to turn from heavy jams to more structured riffy shove. That track, shorter at 3:43, is a delightful bit of raucousness that answers the more straightforward fare on 2021’s Ignis EP while setting up a direct transition into “Eternal Shadow,” which builds walls of organ-laced fuzz roll that go out and don’t come back, ending the 16-minute outing in such a way as to make it feel more like a mini-album. They touch no ground here that feels uncertain for them, but that’s only a positive sign as they perhaps work toward making their debut LP. Whether that’s coming or not, Shifting Sands is no less engaging a mini-trip for its brevity.

Cervus on Facebook

Cervus on Bandcamp


Unsafe Space Garden, Where’s the Ground?

Unsafe Space Garden Where's the Ground

On their third album, Where’s the Ground?, Portuguese experimentalists Unsafe Space Garden tackle heavy existentialist questions as only those truly willing to embrace the absurd could hope to do. From the almost-Jackson 5 casual saunter of “Grown-Ups!” — and by the way, all titles are punctuated and stylized all-caps — to the willfully overwhelming prog-metal play of “Pum Pum Pum Pum Ta Ta” later on, Unsafe Space Garden find and frame emotional and psychological breakthroughs through the ridiculous misery of human existence while also managing to remind of what a band can truly accomplish when they’re willing to throw genre expectations out the window. With shades throughout of punk, prog, indie, sludge, pop new and old, post-rock, jazz, and on and on, they are admirably individual, and unwilling to be anything other than who they are stylistically at the risk of derailing their own work, which — again, admirably — they don’t. Switching between English and Portuguese lyrics, they challenge the audience to approach with an open mind and sympathy for one another since once we were all just kids picking our noses on the same ground. Where’s the ground now? I’m not 100 percent, but I think it might be everywhere if we’re ready to see it, to be on it. Supreme weirdo manifestation; a little manic in vibe, but not without hope.

Unsafe Space Garden on Instagram

gig.ROCKS on Bandcamp


Neon Burton, Take a Ride


Guitarist/vocalist Henning Schmerer reportedly self-recorded and mixed and played all instruments himself for Neon Burton‘s third full-length, Take a Ride. The band was a trio circa 2021’s Mighty Mondeo, and might still be one, but with programmed drums behind him, Schmerer digs in alone across these space-themed six songs/46 minutes. The material keeps the central duality of Neon Burton‘s work to-date in pairing airy heavy psychedelia with bouts of denser riffing, rougher-edged verses and choruses offsetting the entrancing jams, resulting in a sound that draws a line between the two but is able to move between them freely. “Mother Ship” starts the record quiet but grows across its seven minutes to Truckfighters-esque fuzzy swing, and “I Run,” which follows, unveils the harder-landing aspect of the band’s character. The transitions are unforced and feel like a natural dynamic in the material, but even the jammiest parts would have to be thought out beforehand to be recorded with just one person, so perhaps Take a Ride‘s most standout achievement — see also: tone, melody, groove — is in overcoming the solo nature of its making to sound as much like a full band as it does in the 10-minute “Orbit” or the crescendo of “Disconnect” that rumbles into the sample-topped ambient-plus-funky meander at the start of instrumental closer “Wormhole,” which dares a bit of proggier-leaning chug on the way to its thickened, nodding culmination.

Neon Burton on Facebook

Neon Burton on Bandcamp


Thousand Vision Mist, Depths of Oblivion

Thousand Vision Mist Depths of Oblivion

Though pedigreed in a Maryland doom scene that deeply prides itself on traditionalism, Laurel, MD, trio Thousand Vision Mist mark out a progressive path forward with their second full-length, Depths of Oblivion, the eight songs/35 minutes of which seem to owe as much to avant metal as to doom and/or heavy rock. Opener “Sands of Time” imagines what might’ve been if Virus had been raised in the Chesapeake Watershed, while “Citadel of Green” relishes its organically ’70s-style groove with an intricacy of interpretation so as to let Thousand Vision Mist come across as respectful of the past but not hindered by it creatively. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon (ex-Life Beyond, Indestroy, etc.), bassist/backing vocalist Tony Comulada (War Injun, Outside Truth, etc.) and drummer Chris Sebastian (ex-Retribution), the band delves into the pastoral on “Love, the Destroyer” and the sunshine-till-the-fuzz-hits-then-still-awesome “Thunderbird Blue,” while “Battle for Yesterday” filters grunge nostalgia through their own complexity and capper “Reversal of Misfortune” moves from its initial riffiness — perhaps in conversation with “We Flew Too High” at the start of what would be side B — into sharper shred with an unshakable rhythmic foundation beneath. I didn’t know what to expect so long after 2018’s Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow (review here), which was impressive, but there’s no level on which Thousand Vision Mist haven’t outdone themselves with Depths of Oblivion.

Thousand Vision Mist on Facebook

Thousand Vision Mist on Bandcamp


New Dawn Fades, Forever

New Dawn Fades Forever

Founded and fronted by vocalist George Chamberlin (Ritual Earth), the named-for-a-JoyDivision-tune New Dawn Fades make their initial public offering with the three-songer Forever, which at 15 minutes long doesn’t come close to the title but makes its point well before it’s through all the same. In “True Till Death,” they update a vibe somewhere between C.O.C.‘s Blind and a less-Southern version of Nola-era Down, while “This Night Has Closed My Eyes” adds some Kyuss flair in Chamberlin‘s vocal and the concluding “New Moon” reinforces the argument with a four-minute parade of swing and chug, Sabbath-bred if not Sabbath-worshiping. If the band — whose lineup seems to have changed since this was recorded at least in the drums — are going to take on a full-length next, they’ll want to shake things up, maybe an interlude, etc., but as a short outing and even more as their first, they don’t necessarily need to shock with off-the-wall style. Instead, Forever portrays New Dawn Fades as having a clear grasp on what they want to do and the songwriting command to make it happen. Wherever they go from here, it’ll be worth keeping eyes and ears open.

New Dawn Fades on Facebook

New Dawn Fades on Bandcamp


Aton Five, Aton Five

aton five self titled

According to the band, Aton Five‘s mostly-instrumental self-titled sophomore full-length was recorded between 2019 and 2022, and that three-year span would seem to have allowed for the Moscow-based four-piece to deep-dive into the five pieces that comprise it, so that the guitar and organ answering each other on “Danse Macabre” and the mathy angularity that underscores much of the second half of “Naked Void” exist as fully envisioned versions of themselves, even before you get to the 22-minute “Lethe,” which closes. With the soothing “Clepsydra” in its middle as the only track under eight minutes long, Aton Five have plenty of time to develop and build outward from the headspinning proffered by “Alienation” at the album’s start and in the bassy jabs and departure into and through clearheaded drift-metal (didn’t know it existed, but there it is), the work they’ve put into the material is obvious and no less multifaceted than are the songs, “Alienation” resolving in a combination of sweeps and sprints, each of which resonates with purpose. That one might say the same of each of the three parts that make up “Lethe” should signal the depth of consideration in the entirety of the release. I know there was a plague on, but maybe Aton Five benefitted as well from having the time to focus as they so plainly did. Whether you try to keep up with the turns or sit back and let the band go where they will, Aton Five, the album, feels like the kind of record that might’ve ended up somewhere other than where the band first thought it would, but is stronger for having made the journey to the finished product.

Aton Five on Facebook

Aton Five on Bandcamp


Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes, In a Sandbox Full of Suns

Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes In a Sandbox Full of Suns

Their second LP behind 2020’s Everwill, the five-song In a Sandbox Full of Suns finds German four-piece Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes fully switched on in heavy jam fashion, cuts like “Love Story” and “In a Sandbox Full of Suns” — both of which top 11 minutes — fleshed out with improv-sounding guitar and vocals over ultra-fluid rhythms, blending classic heavy blues rock and prog with hints and only hints of vintage-ism and letting the variety in their approach show itself in the four-minute centerpiece “Dead Urban Desert” and the suitably cosmic atmosphere to which they depart in closer “Time and Space.” Leadoff “Coffee Style” is rife with attitude, but wahs itself into an Eastern-inflected lead progression after the midpoint and before turning back to the verse, holding its relaxed but not lazy feel all the while. It is a natural brand of psychedelia that results throughout — an enticing sound between sounds; the proverbial ‘not-lost wandering’ in musical form — as Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes don’t try to hypnotize with effects or synth, etc., but prove willing to take a walk into the unknown when the mood hits. It doesn’t always, but they make the most of their opportunities regardless, and if “Dead Urban Desert” is the exception, its placement as the centerpiece tells you it’s not there by accident.

Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes on Facebook

Interstellar Smoke Records store


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Bell Witch Announce New Album Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate Released This Friday; Playing in Full at Roadburn

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 20th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

bell witch

Well obviously they’re playing it in full at Roadburn. They’re Bell Witch. It’s Roadburn. Put it in your calendar under ‘duh’ and thank your lucky stars you’re there to see it if you’re going to be. Bell Witch, who had the collab with Aerial Ruin (review here) out in 2020 but whose last LP-proper was 2017’s wrenchingly brilliant Mirror Reaper (review here), will release their new album, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate, on Friday ahead of physical pressings in June through Profound Lore. Presumably doing digital ahead of time is so that people going to see that set at Roadburn can, you know, maybe listen ahead of time if so inclined and have some idea of what they’re getting into.

About that? 85-minute single-song from Bell Witch? That’s likely to be a big ‘yes’ from anyone who was subsumed into the listening experience of Mirror Reaper, myself included. Sad to say I won’t get to see that set at Roadburn, but I’ll look forward to hearing the record and whatever sequels the Seattle duo might have planned for it when they come along. Figure this should set Bell Witch up for albums until, what, maybe 2030? The god damned future, that is.

From the PR wire:

bell witch future's shadow part 1 the clandestine gate





For more than a decade, the renowned Pacific Northwestern doom metal band Bell Witch has sent tides surging over the seawalls of the song form, unraveling conventional expectations about the ways music stations itself in time to absorb a listener’s attention. Rather than seek catharsis, the duo’s songs heave themselves through time at a glacial pace, staving off resolution in favor of a trancelike capsule eternity. Invoking both boundlessness and claustrophobia in the same charged gesture, Bell Witch cultivates a sense of time outside of time, an oasis inside an increasingly frenetic media culture.

Today they announce new album, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate. Like 2017’s lauded Mirror Reaper, The Clandestine Gate is a single 83-minute track — a composition that pulses and breathes on a filmic timeframe. It constitutes the first chapter in a planned triptych of longform albums, collectively called Future’s Shadow.

“Eventually, the end of the last album will be looped around to the first to make a circle,” says bassist Dylan Desmond of the triptych. “It can be continuously looped, like a day cycle. This would be dawn. The next one would be noon. The following one would be sundown, with dawn and sundown both having something of night.”

While traces of organ and synthesizer hovered over Mirror Reaper and Bell Witch’s 2020 collaboration with Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Volume 1, The Clandestine Gate drew those instruments closer to the center of its compositions. “We started experimenting with letting more of the elements shine on their own,” says drummer Jesse Shreibman. The band reunited with their longtime producer Billy Anderson as they began negotiating these new compositional weights. The record begins with an eight-minute organ passage that builds slowly, like the susurrations of dawn, before Desmond’s distortion-choked bass cleaves it open. Throughout their new material, Shreibman and Desmond also took the opportunity to implement new vocal strategies. “I wanted the vocals to be more active, rather than being on top of the soundscape,” notes Shreibman. On The Clandestine Gate, Bell Witch’s twinned voices build off of the chantlike textures of previous records while steering toward more developed melodic lines, structured harmonies, and rhythmic death metal growls.

The expansive scale of Future’s Shadow gave Bell Witch more leeway to plumb themes that have long percolated throughout their work. The concept of eternal return — that time doesn’t end and death doesn’t punctuate life, but both go on forever in an infinite loop no one can remember — inflected the development of The Clandestine Gate after Desmond encountered the idea in Nietzche’s book The Gay Science. The glacially paced films of 20th century Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky similarly supplied a framework for the movements of The Clandestine Gate and Future’s Shadow as a whole. Simple actions — carrying a candle across a room, tossing a metal nut into an overgrown field — carry life-and-death weight, a strategy echoed in Bell Witch’s suspension of minimal melodies across planetary expanses.

The immense gravity of a work like The Clandestine Gate allows these ideas to simmer in a way that feels profoundly and somatically intuitive — not just a philosophical exercise, but an embodied truth. By slowing down both their creative process and the tempo of the music itself, Bell Witch digs even deeper into their long standing focus: the way life spills on inside its minuscule container, both eternal and fleeting, a chord that echoes without resolution. As both the beginning and end of the Future’s Shadow triptych, The Clandestine Gate opens a new chapter in Bell Witch’s macroscopic minimalism: the start of a yawning orbit around an increasingly massive core.

Today Bell Witch have also announced an exclusive, one-off performance in which they will perform Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate in full this Friday, April 21 on the main stage at renowned Dutch festival Roadburn in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Desmond tells, “We have always had incredible experiences at Roadburn and cannot think of a better place for the live debut of our new record. We can’t wait to return to their stage on Friday for the premiere performance of ‘The Clandestine Gate.’” For more info, go here:

Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate sees its release across all digital retailers on Friday, April 21 and physical (CD, Cassette, Vinyl) on June 9 via Profound Lore.

Bell Witch is Bassist Dylan Desmond and Drummer Jesse Shreibman.

Bell Witch, ‘The Making of Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate‘ teaser

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Quarterly Review: Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Cruthu, Sólstafir, ILS, Bismut, Cracked Machine, Megadrone, KLÄMP, Mábura, Astral Sleep

Posted in Reviews on October 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan


We’ve reached the portion of the Quarterly Review wherein I would no longer know what day it is if I didn’t have my notes to help me keep track. I suppose it doesn’t matter — the day, that is — since it’s 10 records either way, but I’d hate to review the same albums two days in a row or something. Though, come to think of it, that might be a fun experiment sometime.

Not today. Today is another fresh batch of 10 on the way to 60 by next Monday. We’ll get there. Always do. And if you’re wondering, today’s Thursday. At least that’s what I have in my notes.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. I

bell witch aerial ruin Stygian Bough Volume 1

The collaborative effort Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin and their 64-minute full-length, Stygian Bough Vol. I — the intention toward future output together hinted at in the title already confirmed by the group(s) — is a direct extension of what Aerial Ruin, aka Erik Moggridge, brought to the last Bell Witch album, 2017’s Mirror Reaper (review here), in terms of complementing the crushing, emotionally resonant death-doom of the Washington duo with morose folk vocal melody. Stygian Bough Vol. I is distinguished by having been written by the two-plus-one-equals-three-piece as a group, and accordingly, it more fluidly weaves Moggridge‘s contributions into those of Bell Witch‘s Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman, resulting in an approach like if Patrick Walker from Warning had joined Thergothon. It’s prevailing spirit is deep melancholy in longer pieces like “The Bastard Wind” and “The Unbodied Air,” both over 19 minutes, while it might be in “Heaven Torn Low I (The Passage)” and “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)” that the trio most effectively bring their intent to life. Either way, if you’re in, be ready to go all the way in, but know that it’s well worth doing so.

Bell Witch on Thee Facebooks

Aerial Ruin on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website


Cruthu, Athrú Crutha

cruthu Athrú Crutha

Traditional doom with flourish both of noise and NWOBHM guitars — that turn in the second half of opener “Transformation” is like a dogwhistle for Iron Maiden fans — I hear Cruthu‘s second album, Athrú Crutha, and all I can think of are label recommendations. The Michigan outfit’s 2017 debut, The Angle of Eternity (review here), was eventually issued on The Church Within, and that’d certainly work, but also Ván Records, Shadow Kingdom, and even Cruz Del Sur seem like fitting potential homes for the righteousness on display across the vinyl-ready six-song/39-minute outing, frontman Ryan Evans commanding in presence over the reverb-loaded classic-style riffs of guitarist Dan McCormick and the accompanying gallop in Matt Fry‘s drums given heft by Derek Kasperlik‘s bass. Like the opener, “Necromancy” and “Dimensional Collide” move at a good clip, but side B’s “The Outsider” and closer “Crown of Horns” slow things down following the surprisingly rough-edged “Beyond the Pale.” One way or the other, it’s all doomed and so are we.

Cruthu on Thee Facebooks

Cruthu on Bandcamp


Sólstafir, Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

Sólstafir endless twilight of codependent love

Whereas 2017’s Berdreyminn (review here) existed in the shadow of 2014’s Ótta (review here), Endless Twilight of Codependent Love brings Iceland’s Sólstafir to a new place in terms of their longer-term progression. It is their first album with an English title since 2005’s Masterpiece of Bitterness, and though they’ve had English-language songs since then, the mellow “Her Fall From Grace” is obviously intended to be a standout here, and it is. On the nine-song/62-minute course of the album, however, it is one impression of many, and in the raging “Dionysus” and post-blackened “Drýsill,” 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Akkeri,” richly atmospheric “Rökkur,” goth-lounging “Or” and worthy finale “Úlfur,” Sólstafir remind of the richly individual nature of their approach. The language swaps could be reaching out to a broader, non-Icelandic-speaking audience. If so, it’s only in the interest of that audience to take note if they haven’t already.

Sólstafir on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website


ILS, Curse

ils curse

Curse is the first long-player from Portland, Oregon’s ILS, and it’s a rager in the PNW noise tradition, with uptempo, gonna-throw-a-punch-and-then-apologize riffs and basslines and swaps between semi-spoken shouts and vicious screams from Tom Glose (ex-Black Elk) that are precisely as jarring as they’re meant to be. I don’t think Curse is anyone’s first time at the dance — Glose, guitarist Nate Abner, bassist Adam Pike or drummer Tim Steiner — but it only benefits across its sans-bullshit 28-minute run by knowing what it wants to do. Its longest material, like the title-track or “Don’t Hurt Me,” which follows, or closer “For the Shame I Bring,” rests on either side of three and a half minutes, but some of the most brutal impressions are made in cuts like “It’s Not Lard but it’s a Cyst” or leadoff “Bad Parts,” which have even less time to waste but are no less consuming, particularly at high volume. The kind of record for when you want to assault yourself. And hey, that happens.

ILS on Thee Facebooks

P.O.G.O. Records on Bandcamp


Bismut, Retrocausality

bismut retrocausality

Apart from the consciously-titled three-minute noiseblaster finale “Antithesis” that’s clearly intended to contrast with what comes before it, Bismut‘s second LP for Lay Bare, Retrocausality, is made up of five extended instrumental pieces the shortest of which is just under 13 minutes long. The Nijmegen-based trio — guitarist Nik Linders, bassist Huibert der Weduwen, drummer Peter Dragt — build these semi-improvisational pieces on the foundation they set with 2018’s Schwerpunkt (review here), and their explorations through heavy rock, metal and psychedelia feel all the more cohesive as a song like “Vergangenheit” is nonetheless able to blindside with the heavy riff toward which it’s been moving for its entire first half. At 71 minutes total, it’s a purposefully unmanageable runtime, but as “Predvídanie” imagines a psych-thrash and “Oscuramento” drones to its crashing finish, Bismut seem to be working on their own temporal accord anyhow. For those stuck on linear time, that means repeat listens may be necessary to fully digest, but that’s nothing to complain about either.

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Lay Bare Recordings website


Cracked Machine, Gates of Keras

Cracked Machine Gates of Keras

UK instrumentalists Cracked Machine have worked relatively quickly over the course of their now-three albums to bring a sense of their own perspective to the tropes of heavy psychedelic rock. Alongside the warmth of tone in the guitar and bass, feeling drawn from the My Sleeping Karma/Colour Haze pastiche of progressive meditations, there is a coinciding edge of English heavy rock and roll that one can hear not so much in the drift of “Temple of Zaum” as in the push of “Black Square Icon,” which follows, as well as the subtle impatience of the drums on “October Dawn.” “Move 37,” on the other hand, is willfully speedier and more upbeat than much of what surrounds, but though opener/longest track (immediate points) “Cold Iron Light” hits 7:26, nothing on Gates of Keras sticks around long enough to overstay its welcome, and even in their deepest contemplations, the feeling of motion carries them and the listener effectively through the album’s span. They sound like a band realizing what they want to do with all the potential they’ve built up.

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Kozmik Artifactz website

PsyKa Records website


Megadrone, Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

Megadrone Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

From cinematic paranoia to consuming and ultra-slow rollout of massive tonality, the debut offering from Megadrone — the one-man outfit of former Bevar Sea vocalist Ganesh Krishnaswamy — stretches across 53 minutes of unmitigated sonic consumption. If nothing else, Krishnaswamy chose the right moniker for the project. The Bandcamp version is spread across two parts — “Transmission A” (21:45) and “Transmission B” (32:09) — and any vinyl release would require significant editing as well, but the version I have is one huge, extended track, and that feels like exactly how Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae was composed and is supposed to be heard. Its mind-numbing repetitions lead the listener on a subtle forward march — there are drums back in that morass somewhere, I know it — and the piece follows an arc that begins relatively quiet, swells in its midsection and gradually recedes again over its final 10 minutes or so. It goes without saying that a 53-minute work of experimentalist drone crushscaping isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. Bold favors bold.

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KLÄMP, Hate You

klamp hate you

Sax-laced noise rock psychedelic freakouts, blown-out drums and shouts and drones, cacophonous stomp and chaotic sprawl, and a finale that holds back its payoff so long it feels cruel, KLÄMP‘s second album, Hate You, arrives less than a year after their self-titled debut, and perhaps there’s some clue as to why in the sheer mania of their execution. Hate You launches with the angularity of its 1:47 title-track and rolls out a nodding groove on top of that, but it’s movement from one part to another, one piece to another, is frenetic, regardless of the actual tempo, and the songs just sound like they were recorded to be played loud. Second cut “Arise” is the longest at 7:35 and it plays back and forth between two main parts before seeming to explode at the end, and by the time that’s done, you’re pretty much KLÄMPed into place waiting to see where the Utrecht trio go next. Oblivion wash on “An Orb,” the drum-led start-stops of “Big Bad Heart,” psych-smash “TJ” and that awaited end in “No Nerves” later, I’m not sure I have any better idea where that might be. That’s also what makes it work.

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God Unknown Records website


Mábura, Heni

Mábura heni

Preceded by two singles, Heni is the debut EP from Rio de Janeiro psychedelic tonal worshipers Mábura, and its three component tracks, “Anhangá,” “III/IV” and “Bong of God” are intended to portray a lysergic experience through their according ambience and the sheer depth of the riffs they bring. “Anhangá” has vocals following the extended feedback and drone opening of its first half, but they unfold as a part of the general ambience, along with the drums that arrive late, are maybe sampler/programmed, and finish by leading directly into the crash/fuzz launch of “III/IV,” which just before it hits the two-minute mark unfurls into a watershed of effects and nod, crashing and stomping all the while until everything drops out but the bass only to return a short time later with the Riff in tow. Rumbling into a quick fade brings about the toking intro of “Bong of God,” which unfolds accordingly into a riff-led noisefest that makes its point seemingly without saying a word. I wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, but it’s a first EP. What it shows is that Mábura have some significant presence of tone and purpose. Don’t be surprised when someone picks them up for a release.

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Astral Sleep, Astral Doom Musick

Astral Sleep Astral Doom Musick

It’s still possible to hear some of Astral Sleep‘s death-doom roots in their third album, Astral Doom Musick, but the truth is they’ve become a more expansive unit than that (relatively) simple classification than describe. They’re doom, to be sure, but there are progressive, psychedelic and even traditional doom elements at work across the record’s four-song/43-minute push, with a sense of conceptual composition coming through in “Vril” and “Inegration” in the first half of the proceedings while the nine-and-a-half-minute “Schwerbelastungskörper” pushes into the darkest reaches and closer “Aurinko ja Kuu” harnesses a swirling progressive spread that’s dramatic unto its last outward procession and suitably large-sound in its production and tone. For a band who took eight years to issue a follow-up to their last full-length, Astral Sleep certainly have plenty to offer in aesthetic and craft. If it took them so long to put this record together, their time wasn’t wasted, but it’s hard to listen and not wonder where their next step might take them.

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Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin to Release Collaborative Stygian Bough Volume 1 June 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin (Photo by Lauren Lamp)

Certainly Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin are no strangers to each other. As the PR wire details, Erik Moggridge, who is Aerial Ruin, has guested on Bell Witch releases since their outset, perhaps most gloriously on 2017’s gorgeous and excruciating Mirror Reaper (review here), so what making their collaboration official in the matrimonial sense would seem to indicate is mostly a change of mindset and perhaps writing process. Still, those who listened to that record — and if that’s not you, it’s not too late! — will have some decent idea of what Stygian Bough Volume 1 is going for in terms of basic feel, as the streaming track “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)” would seem to hint.

One can only look forward to appreciation the beauty in darkness to come with the album’s arrival, and having seen these two entities share a stage before, should the opportunity arise again, it won’t be one to miss.

The PR wire brings Adam Burke cover art and speaks thus:

bell witch aerial ruin Stygian Bough Volume 1



Renowned doom duo Bell Witch fully integrate themselves with dark folk elegist, Aerial Ruin. The collaborative effort, titled ‘Stygian Bough Volume 1’ is a collection of five transcendent, hauntingly beautiful songs that defy categorization.

On Stygian Bough Volume I, members Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman of renowned doom duo, Bell Witch fully integrate themselves with dark folk elegist, Erik Moggridge of Aerial Ruin. Genuine collaborations are rare yet these two found a way to become one, resulting in a hauntingly beautiful record.

While Moggridge has been a part of Bell Witch’s sonic fingerprint on all their prior records, perhaps most notably for his vocals on their previous acclaimed full-length, Mirror Reaper, he’s now part of the very fabric that makes up the five, emotional and strikingly heavy songs that comprise Stygian Bough Volume 1.

The addition of guitar to the bass and drum-only dynamic came naturally as the threesome discussed potential models for their joint effort. Ulver’s unorthodox folk album Kveldssanger came up as did Candlemass’ mile marker Nightfall. But the real fuel to Stygian Bough Volume I was the Bell Witch track, “Rows (of Endless Waves)”, which was not only Moggridge’s first appearance with Bell Witch but also a track that has deeply resonated with Desmond over the years. With the approach in place, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin collectively wrote five desolate yet mystical songs that defy categorization. From the mournful “The Bastard Wind” and the crepuscular “Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)” to the monstrous “Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)” and the liturgical gloom of “The Unbodied Air,” Stygian Bough Volume I is an album of deep, dark undertows and careful respite.

The themes explored by Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin were independently tackled from different angles but were mainly from similar spaces. Whereas Bell Witch plumbed the depths of purgatory—a place of atonement between life and death—across three full-lengths, Moggridge’s Aerial Ruin have centered on the loss of the self and the spiritual places the vacancy ultimately leads to. For Stygian Bough Volume I, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin topics of choice intersect and complement, continuing in spirit but with a broader vantage point where “Rows (of Endless Waves)” left off.

“Stygian Bough is a reference to the theme of The Golden Bough,” observes Desmond. “The book’s theme is centered on the rites of a temple in ancient Italy where slaves were transformed into kings by slaying he who reigned as such after successfully stealing the Golden Bough from the sacred tree within the temple. Within that notion, a different sort of slavery was brought upon the newly crowned king, as he must understand sooner or later that his fate would ultimately be the same as his predecessor. In short, the golden bough made a king out of a slave only to find they were now enslaved to a different sort of tyranny, always stalking them from the darkest shadows of their imagination. From this perspective, the “golden bough” is better understood as a deception casting darkness. Thus, Stygian Bough.”

Adds Moggridge: “They presented that song [“Rows (of Endless Waves)”] to me in a mostly instrumental form with the idea that it’s about a ghost trapped on rows of waves that can’t reach the land. I ran with this idea and started to think of the ghost of a king who, if he reached land could be reborn and rule again. The king is also a larger metaphor for humanity who rules over the planet and other species. On this new album our ghost upon the waves flees not towards the land but towards death. The narrative, as much as it exists, is loose and not linear and definitely stream of consciousness. There are cyclical and spherical qualities to the journey where death, desolation, and the spirit are reflected in myriad ways.”

Stygian Bough Volume I sees its release June 26 via Profound Lore Records. For pre-orders and additional information on limited pressings and exclusive variants, visit here. Stygian Bough Volume I was recorded and mixed by Randall Dunn at Avast Recording Co. in Seattle. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin then took the full-length to mastering ace Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service in Chicago. The result is a full-length of profound lows and delicate highs — fitting for Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin’s quiet/introspective and heavy/loud dynamic. As for the triumvirate’s next steps, they plan on touring in support of Stygian Bough Volume I when it’s safe to do so. Stay tuned for tour updates.

Stygian Bough Volume 1 Track Listing:
1 – The Bastard Wind
2 – Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)
3 – Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)
4 – Prelude
5 – The Unbodied Air

Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)”

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Live Review: Neurosis, Bell Witch & Deafkids in Brooklyn, 08.11.19

Posted in Reviews on August 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Neurosis (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve seen two shows now at Brooklyn Steel, and the other one was Sleep, so needless to say I’m developing something of a crush on the massive warehouse-space-turned-venue, from its nearby public parking to the balcony space where one might, if the band is loud enough, feel the floor shake just a little bit. Needless to say, at both shows I’ve seen there, that particular phenomenon has occurred.

Three-band touring bill on a Sunday night: Brazil’s Deafkids, Seattle duo Bell Witch and post-metal’s own lawgivers, Neurosis — originally from Oakland but now more spread out along the West Coast and inland — headlining. I was interested to see Deafkids, having missed them at Roadburn earlier in the year, and Bell Witch have yet to disappoint anytime I’ve caught a set, but it was the thought of Neurosis in that room that got me out from under my grandfather’s pine tree and into Brooklyn for the show, rocking out to Sunday evening NPR all the way.

It was a relatively early start for Deafkids, but the three-piece from São Paulo made the most of their time and then some. Their sound is broad and encompassing enough that you can basically hear whatever you want to in it. Punk, psychedelia, organic techno, prog brilliance and space-garage rawness, experimentalism and barebones anti-craft, heavy riffs and pounding rhythms, modern disaffection and futurist ethereality — it’s all there. And at the same time, it’s jazz. Deafkids are the shape of jazz to come. I hadn’t realized. To me it like peak-era Ministry and most-lysergic Monster Magnet got together and decided hooks were for the weak, but again, you could hear anything in what they were doing.

Their 2019 full-length, Metaprogramação — which Neurosis released through their own Neurot Recordings imprint — is likewise stylistically ranging, but live, the effect was brilliant, most especially in the drums, which not only held together the effects wash when they wanted to, but through repetition became part of the overarching churn as offered by the guitar and bass. They were not a super-happy-funtime experience, but they were engrossing, demanding and earning attention from front to back for a set that felt short when it was over.

I heard someone say afterward that Bell Witch were playing a single song from their new album, as in, post-Mirror Reaper (review here), but I don’t think that’s true. I’ve been wrong before, but from the gradual pickup to the way they rolled in linear fashion through their final crashes and receded, it seemed to be a piece culled from that 83-minute 2017 single-song outing — might’ve just been the first half of it; the “As Above” portion of the 2CD release — with drummer/vocalist Jesse Shreibman and bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond dug into the mournful weight of that album’s spacious emotionalism. Crushing they were, either way, but I was kind of shaking my head when they were done, wondering if I had been incorrect the whole time about what I was hearing. But no, I wasn’t.

Should they actually be moving past Mirror Reaper, they’ve got their work cut out for them in following it, but one might’ve said the same when they put out Four Phantoms (review here) in 2015, and in fact many did, so there. The darkness they conjure is luscious even at its most minimal, and though they didn’t have Aerial Ruin‘s Erik Moggridge to add vocals as he does on the studio version of “Mirror Reaper,” or the time to play the thing in its rather considerable entirety, they delivered a set that was as open as it was claustrophobic, excruciating in its patience but still vital in expression. They had a hard task preceding Neurosis on a Sunday night in Brooklyn, but they more than admirably faced that challenge.

Neurosis opened with the title-track of 2001’s A Sun that Never Sets (discussed here), and I decided about halfway through the song that if they walked off the stage after it without saying a word to the crowd, it still would’ve been worth the drive from NJ. Nearly 35 years on from their inception, Neurosis are the best live band I’ve ever seen. Their shows are on a different wavelength entirely from most acts, and when you go see Neurosis, whether it is your first time or your umpteenth time, it is reasonable to go in with high expectations. I found myself with eyes closed, earplugs mostly out for “End of the Harvest,” from 1999’s Times of Grace, which was the penultimate inclusion in the set and as deep into their discography as they went, but it was “Bending Light” and “Reach” from 2016’s Fires Within Fires (review here) that wound up making the greatest impression on me.

Entirely possible it was a mood thing, or the circumstance of where I was standing, but I seemed to hear more nuance in the guitars of Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly, more psychedelia in how they wove in with Noah Landis‘ ultra-crucial keys and samples, and of course with the weight of bassist Dave Edwardson and the intricate drumming of Jason Roeder, the raw impact of their heaviest moments did indeed shake the floor of Brooklyn Steel‘s balcony. “At the Well” and “Given to the Rising,” “To the Wind” and “My Heart for Deliverance” were certainly more than welcome, but I decided I needed a visit with Fires Within Fires, from which “A Shadow Memory” was also aired, its blend of atmospheric guitar and swinging crunch further encouraging the refresher. Was that album Neurosis‘ way of blending the punk of their roots with a forward-looking psych churn? Did I know it at the time? Was there something I missed, so caught up in the fact of their 30th anniversary? I wonder now.

A bit of homework, maybe, but before Neurosis sent the Sunday night crowd packing, they finished out with “Stones from the Sky,” the closer of A Sun that Never Sets, which was, as ever, a behemoth in its execution. Roeder seemed to change up his drums at the end, opening up the beat just a little bit as the song descended into chaos, and the effect was to make the sudden cut to silence all the more stark. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Neurosis do an encore, but I stood around for a while anyway, hoping they might decide on a whim to come out and roll through “Locust Star” just for the hell of it. No dice, but no complaints either.

In the leadup to this show, I was thinking about the first time I saw Neurosis, at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in 2004. They didn’t really tour at the time, but they were heralding the release of the just-recently-reissued Neurosis & Jarboe collaboration, as well as that’s year’s The Eye of Every Storm (review here). It was the kind of night that changes your perspective on live music. Having had that experience 15 years ago and been fortunate enough to see Neurosis multiple times over since, as they’ve returned to the road more regularly, I had a pretty good sense of what I was going into at Brooklyn Steel. They still managed to exceed expectation. May they go forever doing precisely that.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Bell Witch Post Mirror Reaper Visual Album; European Tour Starts Nov. 28

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bell witch

I was fortunate enough to be in the room at Roadburn 2018 when Seattle duo Bell Witch played their 2017 album, Mirror Reaper (review here), in its entirety from front to back for the only time that, to-date as of this post, they’ve done so. They’re soon to embark on a European tour doing the same with visual backing from assembled archival footage by Taylor Bednarz that’s recently been posted as a “visual album” representation for Mirror Reaper‘s equal-parts-massive-and-mournful 83-minute single-song entirety, gorgeous and emotionally harrowing as it is. But the point is that, yeah, I saw that. You should go see that. That’s a thing you want to see. Talking to you, Europe. Make that happen.

Aside from the raw power of Bell Witch‘s performance, the inclusion of vocalist Erik Moggridge (Aerial Ruin) and Bednarz‘s visuals make the Mirror Reaper performance all the more resonant. To call its spacious downward reaches epic is to undersell them with cliché, as not only was the album a personal expression of grief on the part of bassist Dylan Desmond and drummer/vocalist Jesse Shreibman at the loss of one-time drummer Adrian Guerra, but further, it was a pinnacle achievement of what the band’s work up to that point has been leading toward, their 2015 outing, Four Phantoms (review here), widely lauded as a landmark in death-doom. Mirror Reaper is — if it’s nothing else — a bold forward step in that progression, so even without the emotional weight behind it, its sheer impact as a creative work sets slow-churning fire to any scrutiny one might want to place on it.

The tour starts Nov. 28 in Iceland and continues through Dec. 14 in Cork, Ireland. I don’t know what the future will hold for Bell Witch, who also toured earlier this year in the States alongside YOB promoting the album and played the Pool Party of all things at this year’s Psycho Las Vegas (review here), but whether or not they do this kind of thing again, the moment right now feels crucial for it as they’re taking the album out on tour for the first time, and even if they make a habit of it, to say you were there the first time will remain a special claim to make. If you doubt me, reread the first sentence of this post.

The entirety of the Mirror Reaper visual album is below, followed by the tour dates.


Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper visual album

Ahead of their upcoming European tour where they will perform their album Mirror Reaper in full, BELL WITCH, are streaming the album’s accompanying video. The 83-minute opus was released via Profound Lore to widespread acclaim in 2017 – a repress of the album is now available with new colour variants. Director Taylor Bednarz created a visual accompaniment to the one-track album.

Although the band have played part of Mirror Reaper live at previous shows, the full album has only been performed once in full, at this year’s Roadburn Festival – complete with visuals created by Taylor Bednarz, and vocals from Aerial Ruin’s Erik Moggridge. This full scale performance will be replicated in its entirety at a number of special shows across Europe at the end of the year.

BELL WITCH’s Dylan Desmond comments:
“Taylor Bednarz created a fantastic film to fit Mirror Reaper using exclusively archived footage. During the writing process it became evident to us that the music invited a visual aspect. Bednarz’s interpretation captures much of the emotion we were trying to convey during the song and we are proud of the collaboration with him.”

The accompanying film is a video collage comprised of dozens of archival films. Each of these clips are woven together with the album to build a patient, heavy, and haunting narrative. The film aims to hold the viewer in the state of a lucid dream, feeling trapped as a specter drifting through places of darkness. All shows on the tour will be performed in front of the Mirror Reaper film.

BELL WITCH European Tour Dates:
November 28 – Reykjavik IS – Gaukurinn*
November 30 – London UK – The Dome
December 1 – Leeuwarden NL – Into Darkness Festival*
December 2 – Sint Niklaas BE – Darken The Moon X *
December 3 – Wiesbaden DE – Schlachthof
December 5 – Leipzig DE – UT Connewitz
December 7 – Wroclaw PL – Sala Gotycka
December 8 – Berlin DE – Zukunft
December 9 – Malmo, SE – Plan B*
December 10 – Oslo, NO – BLÅ
December 11 – Gothenburg, SE – Musikens Hus*
December 12 – Copenhagen, DK – Alice
December 13 – Dublin IE – Thomas House*
December 14 – Cork IE – Cyprus Avenue
*denotes show is not seated

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Bell Witch on Twitter

Bell Witch on Instagram

Profound Lore Records website

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Profound Lore Records on Bandcamp

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Live Review: Psycho Las Vegas Pool Party, 08.17.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on August 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

viva psycho

08.16.18 – 4:50AM – Friday morning – Hard Rock, hotel room

None of it makes any fucking sense. Not a lick of it. And it took me the better part of the day to realize that’s the idea. The whole point. What even is underground when you watch Bell Witch play by the side of a casino pool in a sweltering den of capitalist exploitation? What is real? Any of it? I don’t know. That’s the point. Psycho Las Vegas is taking the narrative of what the underground is and punching it in the face until it can’t be recognized anymore. The sheer spectacle of this event. The are-you-overwhelmed-yet-okay-good tilt. It’s so weird. It’s so weird.

psycho las vegas 2018 thursdayIt’s so weird.

But I don’t think you’re supposed to get it. It’s not about making sense in any kind of traditional way. Psycho Las Vegas, in the span of three very-clearly-well-funded years, has become the absolute destination heavy festival in the US. There are plenty of other metal fests that have been around longer and have unquestionable reputations, but for this particular branch of heavy, there’s nothing to match this. I don’t know how anything could.

This was the first day. The pool party. By the Paradise Pool. I apologize deeply to Haunt and Toke. I just didn’t make it in time. I wanted to see both. It just didn’t work out. I got myself situated in time to catch most of Fireball Ministry though, and here’s how it went from there:

Fireball Ministry

fireball ministry (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If you gotta start a weekend of top-class heavy somewhere, it might as well be with top-class heavy. Fireball Ministry had bassist Helen Storer filling in for Scott Reeder alongside guitarist/vocalists Jim Rota and Emily Burton and drummer John Oreshnick, but there was no way in hell they weren’t going to rock either way. Ostensibly, they were here supporting their new album, late-2017’s Remember the Story (review here), but even more than that, they were here representing a sans-frills heavy rock spirit that has endured in spite of trend and generational swap. That is, Fireball Ministry were there when, and they’re here now, and they delivered a powerful set as only a group of no-bullshit, ace-songwriting, still-underrated-after-all-these-years veterans could hope to do. I hoped to run into Rota later to ask him if this was the first casino pool party he’d ever played — hey, Fireball Ministry‘s done a lot of shows, so you never know — but didn’t get the chance. Either way, they absolutely delivered, and while I was fairly gutted to miss the first two bands, if you need to get on board with a show already in progress, Fireball Ministry are more than ready to make their rock your rock. Oh and by the way, they rock.

Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Tough to be the odd band out on this bill, but Dengue Fever managed, and again, I was a little bit in wrapping my head around what was happening. Psycho returnees? Took it all in stride. Let’s assume they were the ones in the patched battle vests dancing to Dengue Fever‘s upbeat semi-punk/semi-funk surf groove. There’s a trick to being here, I think, and no, it’s not just drinking. I’ll grant that Las Vegas is among the worst places on earth to be sober — the town simply wasn’t built for humans to be lucid within its borders — but beyond that, the trick is to just go with it. Dengue Fever played two bands after the dirt-sludge of Toke and two bands before Bell Witch and Wolves in the Throne Room back to back. That was the whole vibe of today in a nutshell. If you sat back and thought about it, you were doing it wrong. It’s a party. It’s a weird party. So party, and be weird. Dengue Fever were more than just a vehicle for that spirit, of course, but in this context, but with the sax blaring and the bouncing rhythms, they seemed to embody this festival’s will to be whatever the hell it wants to be, whenever the hell it wants to be it. Truly Psycho.


Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Band of the day. One more record and Elder will be headlining shows like this. It’s a toss-up whose crowd was bigger, theirs or Wolves in the Throne Room‘s, but even so, their presence on stage, their command of their sweeping progressive heavy rock sound, and their drive to genuinely push the idea of ‘heavy’ to places it’s never been all speak to a band ready to be at the next level. Their 2017 album, Reflections of a Floating World (review here), and 2015’s landmark Lore (review here) were assuredly well known to the masses assembled, and even if it was the title-track of  2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) that got the biggest response, people were cheering during part transitions, let alone the standard round of applause between the songs. Elder are that kind of band, and their movements within tracks have only gotten more fluid and nuanced over time. The four-piece incarnation of the band had all the more depth of tone and sonic reach from guitarists Nick DiSalvo and Mike Risberg (the former also vocals, the latter also keys), while bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto offered swing and intricacy of play alike that just furthered the proggy impression Elder make at this point. They killed. I don’t know how else to say it. It was an utter pleasure to watch and they’ve become one of the best heavy rock live acts anywhere, period. If you missed them, sorry.

Bell Witch

Bell Witch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It was sunny when Bell Witch started and by the time they were done, dusk had fallen and the moon was out. Felt about right. They had 80 minutes at their disposal, which would’ve been just enough time to play last year’s brilliant and mournful Mirror Reaper (review here), and sure enough, that single-song outing was basically what comprised their set, even if Erik Moggridge (aka Aerial Ruin) wasn’t around to add his clean parts to it. Bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond and drummer/organist/vocalist Jesse Shreibman had no problem carrying across the outright bludgeoning sensibility of their ultra-doom on their own, however, and with the inward-turned grieving process that is the material itself, Bell Witch nonetheless oozed forth a consuming mass of volume that, despite the outdoor setting, left little choice but to be swallowed whole by it. They’ve toured fairly heavily in support of Mirror Reaper since its arrival — I was fortunate enough to catch them playing it at Roadburn earlier this year as well — and there’s no denying the power of their performance. It’s a masterwork in every sense and deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.

Wolves in the Throne Room

Wolves in the Throne Room (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The fog machines on full blast for the breezy desert night, incense consecrating the stage during the low-end volume-swell drone of their intro, and Washington’s Wolves in the Throne Room actually managed to make the atmosphere of the pool party their own for the duration of their set. It was a raging, scorching performance, as they took hold on the heels of 2017’s Thrice Woven (review here) and blasted out an intensity that was as much about the ambience as it was the assault. The expanded five-piece lineup was fully charged and as guitarist/vocalist Nathan Weaver, whose brother, Aaron, handles drums in the studio while Trevor DeSchryver fills in live, led the band through an outright pummeling set that made itself even further distinguished from everything before it owing to its keys and synth elements and the manner in which it was able to turn from its most seething stretches to minimalist soundscaping seemingly on a dime. The crowd thinned out some by the end — I’ll admit I watched them finish out my hotel room window as well — but for every dragging-ass member of the audience like me, there were even more for whom the party was just getting started, and somehow, Wolves in the Throne Room fit that party as well as anyone else who played on the poolside bill.

It’s about six-thirty now. Need to shower. Need to sleep more. First band today at 12:30PM. Madness is the order of the weekend. Keep falling asleep while typing. Writing with my eyes closed. Still need to sort pictures. Busy busy busy.

Didn’t have enough coffee yesterday. Will work to rectify that soon enough. More pics after the jump though, so thanks for reading.

More later.

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