Witch/The Sword CD reviews [Tee Pee/Kemado]

Music Reviews
Witch/The Sword CD reviews [Tee Pee/Kemado]
Mar 7, 2006, 04:22


Metal appears to be in vogue again, for better or worse, and while the dead-on proficiency of bands like Early Man make a case for some of these newbies, accusations of tourism directed at this new breed of ax slingers have been clogging message boards ever since The Darkness reminded everyone of a world before Nirvana.

Less qualified reviewers will inevitably mention Black Sabbath a lot when discussing Witch's debut album, but the band has far more in common with the proto-metal bands of yore such as Bang, Flower Travelin' Band and Josefus than they do with the iron men from Aston. The Sabbath influence only rears its head on the two tracks that most resemble the blues—the surprisingly catchy “Soul of Fire” and the ominous “Hand of Glory.”

Drummer J. Mascis may be the draw here for a lot of folks, and while he does prove that he can still keep up with dudes half his age and make it look easy, the rest of the band are no slouches and are just as worthy of your attention. Guitarists Asa Irons and Kyle Thomas trade distortion-soaked leads like Blue Cheer during an MK Ultra experiment, while Dave Sweetapple ably holds it down with serviceable, occasionally inventive, bass lines.

Producer John Agnello oughta be in the press photos—this is one of the finest mixing jobs I've heard on a rock record in a long time; worth buying a new set of headphones for.

But Witch is more than the sum of its parts—this seemingly ad-hoc assemblage of New England longhairs has recorded a fantastic debut, an album custom made for those who like their Black Mass to have the slightest hint of patchouli. Count me in.

Witch succeeds in exactly the same places that The Sword fails. Though technically superior to Witch, they lack that band's heart and fiery soul. While you wouldn't exactly accuse The Sword of phoning it in, their songwriting is mostly bland, with little in the way of memorable riffs or melodies. One exception is the groovy “The Horned Goddess,” a raucous update on Sleep's “Dragonaut.”

The band definitely has chops, but not a whole lot to convey them with, and while very competent at channeling the bands they most admire—namely, Kyuss and Sleep—their sound never reaches beyond mere facsimile. And if you're the kind of person predisposed to calling people out on such things, the thin line between facsimile and farce may be enough to back up all those rousing claims of insincerity. [Tee Pee; Kemado]

-James Jackson Toth

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