I’m a fan of doom. It is after all one of the longest-lived sub-genres of metal. Depending on whether you’re in the camp that considers Black Sabbath to be heavy metal’s genesis, the whole genre as we know and love it began with it. I mean ”Black Sabbath” is the perfect example of a doomy track, right. So, it could be said that ‘on the 8th day the Metal Gods created doom’. Or something like that.
I personally like my doom slow and when I say slow, I mean sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooow. At a glacial pace. Funereal, it could be said – a mournful introspective procession full of loss and remembrance. I want to forget the present and ‘experience’ the dolorous sounds emanating from the speakers. I also like my doom HEAVY but with a sense of melody – I’m not asking too much, am I? Well fortunately Bell Witch exist. Sonically speaking this doom duo from the Pacific Northwest are the perfect doom metal band for me.
Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate is the first part of a triptych of releases under the Future’s Shadow title that Bell Witch are planning to release. The album comprises of one track, ”The Clandestine Gate” that runs for a total of 83 minutes and 15 seconds, which is the exact duration of 2017’s Mirror Reaper. I honestly don’t know if there is a specific reason for this particular run time but the band sure know how to successfully fill every second. Dylan Desmond, the band’s bassist and co-vocalist stated that ”The Clandestine Gate” represents dawn with the next two albums being noon and sundown respectively. Based on the quality of this first part of the trilogy, I honestly can’t wait to hear these next two releases.
”The Clandestine Gate” begins with an emotive eight-minute organ theme before any indication of ‘heavy’ is introduced. This perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album (this theme returns with great effect later in the piece too). Bell Witch are masters at creating music with space that allows tracks to breathe. Everything is expertly thought out and measured. Absolutely nothing overstays it’s welcome and is introduced for a specific purpose. The expanded instrumentation also adds so much to the listening experience with the fore mentioned organs and synthesizers being featured more prominently. Bell Witch did dabble with electronics in Mirror Reaper and their recent collaboration with Aerial Ruin, but they feel more front and centre at points of “The Clandestine Gate”. Vocally there has been a shift too. The death metal growls are still present but featured here are some glorious almost choral clean vocals, reminiscent of some of Aaron Turner’s work on later ISIS albums and passages of Tyler Semrick-Palmateer’s delivery in Mare’s self-titled EP. This is the sound of a band evolving.
Despite these additions the band remains at their minimal best throughout. ”The Clandestine Gate” plays out almost like a soundtrack to the beginning of the end of days, ebbing and flowing with themes returning before disappearing again to be replaced with something equally as impressive. It’s an emotional journey too. There is a sense of despair throughout the album and inevitability that one day your time will come. It’s not nihilistic though more of a lulling acceptance. Bell Witch have said that they based the framework of ”The Clandestine Gate” on the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky and, being a fan of the director’s work, I can totally see this. His ability to draw scenes out visually is a match for what the band do sonically. There’s a beauty in the simplicity and lingering gaze. It would be remiss of me not to mention the outstanding artwork that has been chosen to represent this album. Jordi Diaz Alamà’s artwork is a perfect companion to sounds inside.
Bell Witch are my favourite ‘doom band’, there I’ve said it, but they are becoming so much more than a ‘doom band’. This is band introducing more to their arsenal and honing their skills from album to album. There is intense beauty in their misery that speaks to me on a totally different level than a lot of other bands. I absolutely cannot wait to hear their next addition to Future’s Shadow. An early Album of the Year contender which is going to take some beating.