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New Orleans By Way Of New Zealand - 75%

HeySharpshooter, March 23rd, 2012

I really love that cover art.

It was certainly the first thing that stood out to me about Stone Angel's debut LP, Within the Witch. It looks like the dessicated corpse of Yggdrasil exploding from the Earth into a mass field of crucified victims who cry out in pain. It's also perfectly appropriate for the album: blackened and monolithic. Within the Witch does not do anything new or different then any other sludge/doom album ever released, but it does pack massive riffs and plenty of atmosphere into tight, heavy tracks.

Musically, Within the Witch is fairly standard yet highly competent doom/sludge in the vein of Thou, Burning Witch and Noothgrush, so there are not a whole lot of surprises here. Larger than life riffs, tortured screams and earth-shattering bass drive each song along fairly predictable paths, all performed well and with good energy. It's all fairly standard business as usual type stuff: "Bleeding Black" could easily be an EyeHateGod song with it's groovy riffs and thundering low end, while "Withdrawing the Jinn" has that classic New Orleans-metal charm to it... like EyeHateGod as well really. "White Noise, White Light" takes more from the Burning Witch/Thorr's Hammer style of sludge/doom, complete with that occult blackened edge and cavernous vocals.

Where Within the Witch stands out are during those moments of subdued bleakness. During the last few minutes of "White Noise, White Light," the listener is treated to a lovely piece of ambient noise; jarring feedback filters in the distant while a woman whispers indecipherable words, perhaps of evil, perhaps of sorrow. These moments are sadly rare during Within the Witch, and I can't help but hunger for more of them. There is a serious spark of creativity and adventurousness here: "Coffin Cross," by far the strongest track on the album, seethes with blackened rage, ascending the well trodden paths the rest of the album follows and entering new and exciting territory. It's just too bad that Stone Angels didn't appear interested in following these moments over the entire album, instead choosing to give us lots of EyeHateGod stuff.

Not that there is anything wrong with that: I fucking love EyeHateGod, and even the most worship heavy moments of Within the Witch feel superior to most EyeHateGod worship bands out there today. Stone Angels are an extremely young band, having only formed in 2010 and already with a full-length under their belt. The talent and songwriting skill is here, and it peeks through often enough to give Within the Witch plenty of value. Within the Witch does not live up to this obvious talent, but it gives us a glimpse into a potentially grim future.

Rating: 7.5/10

originally posted at http://curseofthegreatwhiteelephant.blogspot.com/