Fearsome foursome Dead Witches are back with The Final Exorcism, due out, Friday, February 22nd through Heavy Psych Sounds Records.
Who are Dead Witches? For those who do not know, they were formed in 2017 by Drummer Mark Greening, a founding member of Electric Wizard who appeared on the first four efforts from the band: Electric Wizard (1995), Come My Fanatics (1997), Dopethrone (2000), and Let Us Prey (2002). Upon his departure, he and fellow Wizard veteran Tim Bagshaw formed Ramesses in 2003. Interestingly enough Greening returned to Electric Wizard a decade later to record 2012’s Time to Die before exiting again, restarting Ramesses in the process. Around that same time, Greening also recruited Bassist Carl Geary, Guitarist Greg Elk, and Italian Vocalist Virginia Monti (also of Psychedelic Witchcraft) to form a new project, that project, you guessed it, was Dead Witches.
As a quartet Dead Witches released Ouija in 2017 to critical acclaim, though it came on the heels of the sad news of the suicide of Elk in late October 2016. A year later, Monti took leave from the band, ushering in Greening recruiting vocalist Soozi Chameleone and Guitarist Oliver “Oli” Hill (known as “Oliver Irongiant” when playing with Sea Bastard) to fill the vacant positions. Equipped with a new lineup, they headed to Chuckalumba Studios, the studio responsible for the first Dead Witches album, as well as a number of Electric Wizard releases to record The Final Exorcism.
First off, the fuzzy Electric Wizard influence is immediately apparent on “There’ Someone There,” even if the connection is more strongly traced through Mark Greening rather than Dead Witches Guitarist Oli Hill. All the gloomier elements of Black Sabbath are here – impressive, muffled drums, clangy bass, fuzzy guitar, and monotone vocals. Delivered in alternating wails and whispers, cast forth into the abyss, the main riff appears almost instantly, and the rest of track rides it, driving into the cold, welcoming ground. Additionally, the vocals swerve a bit between Doom, Riot Grrrl, and a sound almost aligned with Kim Deal of the Breeders.
Then, throughout “Goddess of the Night,” Soozi continues to walk deftly through any slabs of tombstone thrown her way. The numerous tempo changes, riff adjustments, and tone shifts throughout this track only serve to embolden her caustic wailing. Her haunting absence during the song’s close, as well as the length of the next song, “When Do the Dead See the Sun,” is as chilling as her presence elsewhere.
Another strong riff starts on the single “The Church By the Sea,” carrying the track on through the darkest of trails. There may be a day, a time, and a space when the universe runs out of hair-raising Stoner/Doom guitar riffs, but this time, and this space, is not that day. This track threatens to lean a bit more to the Fuzz/Surf Rock genre, more than the Stoner/Doom of its neighbors. That in mind, it makes a dramatic half-shift into early-nineties Doom made famous by Peaceville bands like Paradise Lost.
Moving along, “Lay, Demon” rights the ship, as it were, and the band resumes the path toward utter damnation. This is before the album closer “Fear the Priest” is a slow sermon which keeps a plodding pace for nearly ten minutes. The main riff dips in and out throughout the song, leaving room for tense variations that keep the listener attuned. This is all before the fine sixty seconds introduce a banshee guitar progression, serving as a harrowing end to the album.
The Final Exorcism is a promising sophomore effort from Dead Witches. That said, the seeds of doubt planted by the album’s title should be largely assuaged by the strong input from newcomers Chameleone and Hill. Another round of touring and recording with this lineup should yield even more gloomy fruit. Based on the strength of the seven songs that make up the album, Cryptic Rock gives The Final Exorcism 3.5 out of 5 stars.