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Spirits of the Dirt - 93%

Twisted_Psychology, October 8th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Argonauta Records

Witchkiss doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary when listening to their debut The Austere Curtains of Our Eyes‘s opening song. The Beacon, New York group fits snugly under the doom metal umbrella, but further examination puts them right at the thin line between sludge and death/doom. Guitarist/vocalist Scott Prater sets a solid standard as his riffs carry a dark, cavernous tone that matches the slow, methodical pace while his deep shouts narrowly avoid death growl territory.

But things get complicated as a second voice joins the fray on the eleven minute “Blind Faith.” In addition to providing simple but booming beats throughout the album, drummer Amber Burns shows off a reverb-drenched voice that reminds one of Dorthia Cottrell. It gets to the point where her drawn out moans in conjunction with a hypnotic riff set makes “Seer” feel like a lost Windhand song, but the contrast is more than welcome.

Thankfully these additional elements are smoothly integrated without feeling like a balancing act. The album never loses that dark atmosphere even at its most subdued moments and the mood evolves gradually enough for the style shifts to not come off as jarring. That said, I do find myself wishing that Prater had committed to a full-on death grunt; I can just imagine “A Crippling Wind” sounding massive as hell with some Acid Witch/Hooded Menace-style bellows. Thankfully his cleans are pretty good, especially on the spooky as hell “Death Knell.”

The rather gimmicky track order may have a hand in Witchkiss’s debut album being so effective, but the band clearly has a good thing going. The dual vocal format keeps them from sounding like another Windhand clone while their bare bones dynamic and varied songwriting protect them from “beauty and the beast” goth metal clichés. I think a few tweaks will put them on the map and I’m intrigued to see where they go from here. If you like your doom dark and varied, this is an album for you.

Highlights:
“Blind Faith”
“Death Knell”
“Spirits of the Dirt”

Originally published at http://indymetalvault.com