I’ve sort of got a predisposition towards bands with “wizard” or “witch” in their name. It doesn’t always work mind you, but it’s a good rule of thumb. Most often said band names are associated with doom/stoner acts and such is the case with UK-bred doom merchants Witchsorrow and their latest full-length No Light, Only Fire.
As has been the case since their inception, Witchsorrow live and breathe doom both of the traditional sort and the more modern take on the genre. Take opener “There Is No Light, There Is Only Fire” for example. Sonically speaking it oozes the kind of superfuzzed tone that typifies modern doom but the pace here is blistering by doom standards, as well as compared to much of the album. It barrells forth at a gallop, instantly calling heads to bang as the leads soar to the darkening skies. Thusly, one thinks more toward the traditional spectre of doom in the vein of Trouble and the like in how they can convey a pervading sense of dread without syrupy tempos.
That sort of reverence courses through the album along with a wholesome dose of Sabbath worship, perhaps nowhere more apparent that on closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas”. It’s a 14-minute test of endurance throwing horns at both Sabbath and the obvious inspiration for the title, Mayhem. (Witchsorrow have covered Mayhem (“Freezing Moon”) previously on an EP of the same name.)
That particular bookend bristles with menace through painfully slow chords bearing down upon the listener and soulful solos breathing colour into the monochrome crush. Witchsorrow’s stock and trade is in that sort of skull-crushing doom of the droning sort but they’re smart enough to know tempo variation is necessary to keep the listener conscious and interested as we see in the six tracks sandwiched between the two extremes opening and closing No Light.
“The Martyr” is like a tar pit ensnaring the listener as they run at full sprint from the plundering pace of “No Light”. The monolithic riffs feel filthy and subterranean as they construct a towering wall of sound. The doom is eternal if not quite funereal until it rumbles into a more uptempo shameless Sabbath worshipping run.
Elsewhere Witchsorrow balance plodding movements with engaging rhythms and cathedral filling vocal laments. Scowl-faced riffs push forth with unstoppable determination, oppressive walls of sound and mind-numbing drone defeating the will to think.
No Light crawls with a disdain for anything less than pure darkness. This gives the album a blackened edge that’s more felt than heard. Their menacing riffs personify doom on both sides of the fence. They glorify Sabbath and give nods to Trouble, St. Vitus et al as well as going all in with contemporaries in North America like Windhand and Uzala.
There’s a beauty to their agonizing and painful doom, likely assisted by the clean vocals. There’s little room for subtlety amidst their calculated reverberations but it’s there if you know where to look. No Light, Only Fire is simply a huge and enthralling doom album that only gets better with each spin. Witchsorrow are well studied in the genre and it shows in how they craft songs that are memorable, menacing and muscular. Darkness reigns. Embrace the flames.
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