Music

Bell Witch: Longing

Courage and fortitude are what you'll need most during Longing's 60-minute-plus, low-end rumbling tour of loss and suffering, and Bell Witch has mined those very same attributes to create a mournful and resonant release.


Bell Witch

Longing

Label: Profound Lore
US Release Date: 2012-11-13
UK Release Date: 2012-11-05
Amazon
iTunes

Longing, the full-length debut from Seattle, Washington-based duo Bell Witch, is a gut-wrenching lurch of spacious, atmospheric doom. But what is most captivating about it is the intrinsic connection between those who crafted the album, and those who listen. Courage and fortitude are what you'll need most during Longing's 60-minute-plus, low-end rumbling tour of loss and suffering, and Bell Witch has mined those very same attributes to create a mournful and resonant release.

Courage and fortitude are there in abundance on Longing's very first song, "Bails (of flesh)". You'll need courage because bassist and vocalist Dylan Desmond and drummer and vocalist Adrian Guerra lay out a challenge with a 20-minute opening track that will test your mettle. The fortitude is required because this is an unrestrained dive into fathomless despondency that demands to know if you've the strength to proceed. It's a bold beginning, because Bell Witch is inviting you in for the long haul here, and there's no restraint shown nor a guiding hand in view.

With "Bails (of flesh)", Bell Witch spells out a simple premise that defines Longing. This is cathartic doom, and if you're not prepared to fully shuck off your protective skin to experience your soul being scoured, then perhaps you're just not cut out for the purgative trawls within. Still, it's important to note there's nothing merciless in that stance. There's a restorative end goal to Longing, where the emotional battering speaks of pain we've all felt, and leaves us (hopefully) stronger in facing our own demons.

Such bruising fare is well known to Desmond. His role in Samothrace (the band released two excellent albums of crusty doom: Life's Trade in 2008 and Reverence to Stone in 2012) has certainly prepared him for confronting despairing themes. Guerra is well versed in heavier pursuits too, playing with Desmond in instrumental trio Lethe. But what the duo provides on Longing is something altogether more reductive, paring things back to drums and bass to get to the core of doom. That said, although the duo uses minimal instrumentation here, there's no lack of girth or weight to Longing, and there are plenty of melodic pathways to follow. The recording techniques employed offset any concerns about a lack of guitars, with Desmond's bass--looped, layered and substantially amped--more than fulfilling the role.

As an alternative to the fully fleshed pile-driver attack so often utilized by doom bands, Bell Witch conjures up the power and resonance via shifts in tone and tenor that chip away determinedly at your psyche, rather than simply battering down the doors. "Rows (of endless waves)" and "Longing (the river of ash)" blend slow, deliberate passages with clean vocals evoking heartbreaking loneliness, and harsher roars and bombastic drumming hammer home the all-consuming grief.

Longing is both beautiful and bleak. The slowly plucked, eerie bass drone of "Beneath the Mask" features a Vincent Price sample from 1964’s The Masque of the Red Death, and its creeping tenor lifts the façade we all hide behind with its reflective pace. Throughout the album, the pauses between the turbulent bass churns and the pounding of drums allow its fiercer sections to surge forth with authority and influence. That breathing room is all-important. With the focus here on minimalism to provoke maximum response--in terms of feeling the unbridled, raw weight of personal anguish--the subtlety of Longing's movements counts the most.

It's the pause before the storm, a familiar scenario in metal of course, but when the tempest of howls appears in the early stages of "I Wait", it's that convergence of delicacy and brutishness that gives the song such emotive depth--allowing it to blend heaviness with gracefulness right through to the end. If Longing emphasizes one thing, it's that Bell Witch shows an innate sense of exactly when to transition from tranquility into squalls of gargantuan noise, ensuring the isolation and desolation of inner struggles are portrayed in all their forms.

Like the evocative doom of Profound Lore label-mates Evoken, Indesinence, Aldebaran and Pallbearer, Longing highlights just how far we can sink into mires of hopelessness, and the bittersweet beauty we find in such despair. Bell Witch strikes a superb balance between the vulnerability of painful remembrances and stentorian roars of sorrow. Courage and fortitude, that's what we need to get through life. Bell Witch reminds us that liberation can be found in living though times of great hardship. Don't give up. It's there.

7

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image