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Witch Ritual - Death:Beyond - 92%

Edmund Sackbauer, August 27th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent

Having been more than impressed by Berlin based combo Urza and their soul-crushing full length debut “The Omnipresence of Loss” I went on digging a bit deeper and discovered the second band of guitarist Marcus called Witch Ritual. While one might expect some kind of classic black metal reading the band name and having a look at the great cover artwork we are staying in the realms of doom metal – although Witch Ritual is a quite different beast taking inspiration mainly from more traditional-influenced doom metal (think early Black Sabbath) and the stoner rock genre. On top of that we got female lead vocals but not the overly aggressive or screaming style but presented with more of a laid-back and clean approach.

The basis of the music is a viscous stream of very raw and filthy riffs accompanied by a stoic but absolutely crushing rhythm section. The guitars are thick and the main chords have a dark and very moody undertone which is underlined by the melancholic and hypnotic lead sections. The harmonies have a slightly depressive and occult feeling but are really fascinating at the same time. After some consecutive spins the listener realizes that those riffs and subtle melodies had an impact he did not realize during the first listening session.

The main-tempo is one of a crawling zombie but there are some “speedier” parts ramping up the intensity. The song-writing is polished so that the single parts are always merged into fascinating songs and all tracks together form one piece of dark art. There is nothing really hooky or catchy on the surface but that does not mean that the music is overly complex. The instrumentation is on point and although the structure might sound a bit simple at first each song has small and very clever details making the music never sound too boring or samey which is always a risk when it comes to that kind of metal.

Often the song structures are more (classic or stoner) rock than metal with the lead guitar working as connection between various pieces of one track. The drumming and the omnipresent bass are delivering a solid and groovy backbone with a laid-back delivery and only few outbursts of aggressiveness. There are some dark and haunting moments putting the music more into traditional doom/death territory. However, this is not the mainly bleak and desperate kind of stuff that often defines this sub-genre.

While there are only very few fast (by that I mean nearly mid-tempo) parts the music is always enjoyable pretty easily. Atmospheric breaks and interludes highlight certain moments giving the whole album a very atmospheric nature. While I am always skeptical about female lead vocals I have to admit that singer Lacri does a great job completing the overall sound with her hypnotizing and powerful voice.

The production comes with a good portion of rawness. However, the mix is great giving each instrument enough room to breathe. Nothing is buried in the mix despite the thick and buzzy guitar tone. Overall this is an impressive debut and thanks to a nice digipack edition easily worth adding to anyone’s collection.

Ghost Doom - 90%

CarcassBOMB, June 7th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent

I'm going to try to do this without doing a single pun involving their band name and hopefully without misspelling witch. Witch Ritual are some dense female fronted stoner doom, real melancholic stuff with a tribal quality to it. I haven't heard their EP, but this is their debut LP that really cements their expectations high. This ones essential for fans Windhand and Jex Thoth, general doomheads should certainly check it out too. It has the raunchiness I love in stoner doom/fuzz without the exploitation aesthetic. It's pretty awesome all over.

There's plenty of fuzzy cosmic riffs we've come to expect from the genre, but where this record really shines for me is the quieter sadder moments that linger perfectly. Small instrumentals with a micro focus and patience. It does a lot to add to the overall feeling of the album, this notion of haunting and endless life. If it weren't for the construction of the album it's self and the music composition, a lot of this would be considered on average but the attention to detail often on a small scale, does a lot to set it apart. And of course the cover art which which is really eye grabbing - and how I came to find this on Bandcamp.

The album gets better as it goes on for me, with a fairly typical intro that narrows into a really cool groove as you continue. A stand out track is Ruins which is a straight up incredible track showcasing the essence of the record, with a variation of heavier vocals really adding to the atmosphere. They're more like someone screaming down the street from you than studio metal vocals, really dark shit that's also obscenely catchy. Paired with the post metal tendencies of the instruments, it really gives me some comforting Battle Of Mice vibes. This record feels very personal in a similar way too, there's no lyrics up on the Bandcamp but what I am hearing sounds like some very passionate writing.

There's a good amount of variation over the tracks, with the sound and the presentation of the music. By the end of it I feel like I've been told a story and now I want to go back and listen further to count along the beats of each transition and lyrical theme. I love how it ends with an acoustic track showing her more traditional singing voice and ending on a very wistful note. I'm loving all of the international doom this year, there's really some next level stuff going on in Europe with doom. It carries an exotic sensation.

As soon as I can afford it I'll be hitting their Bandcamp to get the FLAC download and have some really laid back listens with the headphones. That's basically what this is, a treat album, like Bongripper's Terminal, where there's all these build ups with satisfying pay offs and changes.

Perfect for blazing in the dark.

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