Bell Witch’s Longing: Slow and Deadly Wins the Race
In a recent review I wrote for this web site, I offered that traditional stonery doom metal has gotten a little overdone and stagnant. But doom metal, like all subgenres of this raucous distorted mess we choose to fuck up our wardrobes over, has many faces, and the doom I had been listening to—power metal vocals over recycled St. Vitus and Trouble riffs—was simply the one I had grown tired of. The doom metal I like is the filthy shit, that slow-crawling ugliness that sounds like cancer or fungus, that has the feeling of a cold concrete room which seems to stretch for miles but in which you are most assuredly alone (Hell’s parking garage, if you will). And though I’d never heard of Bell Witch before I was offered this review, I can assuredly say that they make exactly the kind of drawn-out strung-out diseased dirges that I love.
The lengths of the five tracks on Longing seems a little daunting at first glance; opener “Bails (Of Flesh)” clocks in at just over twenty minutes, and the briefest song here is just under six. But the crashing apocalyptic dissonance found herein keeps the songs from overstaying their welcome. The album’s production feels vast, full of echoes and spacious vacuums in which the band’s simmering bass tone and primal drum sound can hang in the air hauntingly, reminiscent of bands like Malachi or Batillus. The vocals alternate between howling shrieks, deep resonant moans, and snapping manic catcalls, all of which paint a mood of paranoia and despair.
“Bails (Of Flesh)” oozes into being, and though it never quite picks up, its flourishes of crushing bass and throaty screams keep the listener interested. “Rows (of Endless Waves)” is where things start to get good and strange, with harmonized clear vocals giving way to a melodically-sung rant worthy of any German philosopher and/or psychotic vagrant. “Longing (The River of Ash)” has a gentler, almost organic feeling to it, its repetitive droning and soaring melancholy cries somewhat clerical, almost druidic; it is the least depressing track on the album, but that’s not saying much. “Beneath The Mask” is a miserably stark striking of bass notes over a sample from Roger Corman’s The Masque Of The Red Death, which manages to be chilling and bizarre in a somber fashion that only helps better frame closing song “I Wait,” another slow-burn haunter that crashes into being and whips up epic storms of shrieking, throbbing misery and ends in a serpentine guitar lead that fades into a hum of feedback.
Don’t get me wrong, Longing requires the right kind of clammy, overcast mood to work perfectly; nothing on this record rages against the dying of the light, but instead bemoans the coming of the dark. And that’s awesome, just maybe not at a party. But if you’re looking for doom — not some Rush-esque bullshit about dragons, but doom, crumbling horrific doom — then Longing will scratch your awful itch.