BELL WITCH – MIRROR REAPER (Profound Lore Records)
Honestly, doom metal is not the genre I immediately gravitate toward as a metal fan. My tastes tend to include the frenetic, fast, overpowering, and bombastic. So as I volunteered to take on the latest album from Seattle, Washington’s Bell Witch–an 83 minute, single-track opus called Mirror Reaper—it was not without the trepidation of one stepping foot in an unfamiliar and foreboding country. Yet I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge hearing of the ‘best of 2017’ buzz already being generated by it.
Released October 20th last year, this is Bell Witch’s third album for Profound Lore Records. Formed in 2010 by Dylan Desmond and Adrian Guerra, the band has incorporated only drums, bass guitar, and vocals into its sound. Bell Witch adds the organ to the mix here, and incorporates it to great and dramatic effect, especially on the latter-half of the record. Sadly, Adrian passed away in 2016 and this album is a monument to him. Jesse Shreibman took over the drum duties.
With high expectations, I settled in for the long ride ahead. As I pressed play for my first listen, it felt as if I’d crossed over a hillside to be confronted with a vast, dimly-lit musical forest; the feedback-drenched cords, heavy, plodding, drums, and soaring atmospherics bringing to mind any number of albums I’ve fallen in love with over the years. Yet it wasn’t until my third listen that this album really started to settle in for me, and the tragic circumstances surrounding its creation sunk into my musical brain.
Taking on a single track of 83 minutes in one sitting felt nigh impossible at first, yet I felt myself inescapably drawn in from the first few notes. The contrast of light and shade are a familiar component to any fan of heavy music, and Bell Witch masterfully transition between them here. Plaintive, haunting notes transition into heavy and powerful chords, the percussive elements used as a crushing counterpoint to the bass and vocals, which alternate from chilling screams and growls to more melodic and chant-like.
At the 48 minute mark, Mirror Reaper transitions into what for me is the most moving section, marked by haunting bass notes methodically placed to give the effect of one floating in space. The melodic vocals–sometimes spoken, sometimes whispered when not sung–fill the spaces in between.
Mirror Reaper is an album best listened to in a dimly lit room, with no distractions and a willingness to let it slowly wash over you. The cumulative effect moved me in a way I wasn’t expecting, and it rewards repeat listens. But you won’t be throwing it on to energize you for your morning commute. Bloodrock Media Rating: 4.5 out of 5 axes.
01. Mirror Reaper
Dylan Desmond – bass, vocals
Jesse Shreibman – percussion, Hammond B3, vocals
Erik Moggridge – additional vocals
Written by Andy Cook for Bloodrock Media on January 17, 2018