1. Strange Cults
2. Marsh Of Delusion
3. Slither Into The Circle
4. Bayou Tomb
5. Dead Root
6. Lost Symbols
Metal bands have an uncanny knack of making their genre (or sub-genre) choice obvious from their name alone. I could have guessed that Oakland/Cali quintet Swamp Witch were a doom/sludge band even before I heard their music, but that's kind of the point. While it's mainly the music that paints the picture, image (no not sweeping fringes, but art or a theme) is also important to a listener. Swamp Witch began lumbering out of the undergrowth in 2009 with a digital live album called "090909". An EP called "Gnosis" followed in 2011 on tape and LP (via Gay Scientist Recordings and Anti-Matter Records respectively), prior to a four year period of silence before this EP, which was originally released digitally by the band in conjunction with Transylvanian Tapes (whom also released a tape). Now emerging US label Tribunal Of The Axe has jumped on board with an LP release. It's been out a little while and as always, I'm still catching up.
The Christmas period here in the UK has been remarkably mild but now it’s freezing. The warmth of good music helps though and the fuzz-laden/bass-heavy grooves of Swamp Witch even more so. This record’s opening song Strange Cults is full of occult melody and bleak growls. This end of the doom/sludge spectrum has really shone (if that’s the right word) in recent years, thanks to the darkening worldview and bands like Primitive Man and Meth Drinker (RIP) punching through the bullshit, dragging other towards the light. Middle/Far-Eastern melody comes through at the beginning of Marsh Of Delusion. What follows it though are towering riffs and tempos that threaten to stop or even throw themselves into reverse such is their slowness. Thankfully Swamp Witch has the wherewithal to keep their songs the right side of the ten+ minute mark, so it’s all a bit easier to digest. The addition of upbeat rhythms and much needed ambient guitar towards the end is a relief too. The lack of breathing space before Slither Into The Circle has to be applauded, as it maintains the momentum of “The Slithering Bog” with a blast of heaviness that is over all too quickly. Bayou Tomb follows in a similar vein and helps prove that Swamp Witch is equally adept at writing punchier songs as they are at writing claustrophobia-inducing ones. The noise that accompanies the doom perfectly sums up what it’s like to be buried alive, helping Bayou Tomb to be strangely life-affirming if you’ve made it this far. I have to admit that Dead Root sent me into a bit of a daze. It’s droning, down-tuned instrumentation dragging me deeper before the relative safety of some beautifully hypnotic dank and distant melody. Album closer Lost Symbols embodies the emotion felt during “The Slithering Bog”. Knowing there are individuals in the world that can craft something so heavy yet so transcendent is mind-blowing, but somehow Swamp Witch is able to reignite lost feelings through their music. Hold those dear close to you and wait for the inevitable end. This will guide you safely to the other side.
You can stream "The Slithering Bog" here:-
Tape copies from Transylvanian Tapes have sold out, but you can pick it up digitally from them here - https://transylvaniantapes.bandcamp.com/album/swamp-witch-the-slithering-bog.
LPs can be bought from Tribunal Of The Axe here - http://www.tribunaloftheaxe.com/shop/swamp-with-the-slithering-bog.
Swamp Witch Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/CosmicSludge
Transylvanian Tapes Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TransylvanianTapes
Tribunal Of The Axe Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/tribunaloftheaxe