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Hand of the Horsewitch - Hand of the Horsewitch - 84%

Avestriel, February 18th, 2011

So, I was sent a demo of sorts by a Canadian band of which I had no previous knowledge, and only had their Myspace page as a source of information. The demo consists of four tracks, all of them of a nice length of 3-to-6-minutes. I was not sure what to expect. According to what I could interpret from their Myspace, it was supposedly a black metal band, but really, that assumption would only be half right.

What we have here is a top-notch (for a band which I don't think has released any former demo or full-length yet) quality-wise sludgy black metal band. All the songs are at mid-tempo, some parts being faster and other slower but never moving away from the almost procession-like rhythm of the Burzum-esque drums. Not to say the drumming is simple, though. Whoever's in charge of the drums knows what he's doing. While not technical or at least not in the strict sense of the word, the drumming is quite eclectic, having a borderline jazzy feel at times. Aggression is nowhere to be found but there's a constant, ominous cloud floating heavily over the seemingly neverending parade of sludgetastic riffs, which at times remind me of Atavist and at times taste of Mayhem's Ordo Ad Chao, or maybe even some instrumental songs from Deathspell Omega. The bass is pretty audible although it seems to just follow the guitars. Many a time I thought to myself "man this part could really use a funky bassline á lá Ved Buens Ende", but maybe that's just me being the usual VBE fanboy. The guitar sound is cold but thick, unlike most "cold" guitars out there. It's got a nice, almost professional distorted sound, which reminds me of a few good acts of modern black metal, mostly from Germany, Kathaaria for example.

As I said the songs are all about the riffs. Some are sludgey, some are grim, there's powerchords and there's tremolos, but all of them have one thing in common, they're charged with a somber, gloomy essence, which even becomes passionate at times, and along with the drums which are almost constantly mid-paced (there are some blast beats now and then, which come in in such an appropriate moment, it took me a while to realise they were there, they don't break the natural flow of the song as I would have thought), they create a thick cloak of dreadfulness which spreads over the songs. Finally, vocals are fitting but not that remarkable. The low death-ish growl fits with the slow-paced black sludge riffing, and that's good enough for me. They're also varied enough, with at least two or three different pitches (or maybe vocalists?), one of which reminds me strongly of Merrimack (which is a good thing, vocals-wise).

All in all I have great expectations from this Canadian band, and hope they release a full-length soon. This really is worth checking out and keeping track on.