Witch Charmer first came to my attention with their self-released 2013 ‘Euphoric Curse’ EP, being one of a positive slew of new bands willing to nail colours to the mast of the good ship retro revival. 2014 sees them upping their game with a full length album, ‘The Great Depression.’ Anybody who’s wasted a few minutes of their life reading my reviews will know that I’ve been championing this throwback sound for a couple of years now, and have been impressed by the quality and sincerity of some up and coming acts. However, with increased popularity, there comes the danger of over saturation in an all too small market, so what have Witch Charmer brought with them to stand out from the crowd?
‘Suffer’ opens the album with massive bluesy riffs, the guitarists of the band clearly taking a leaf from the pages (or skin from the packet maybe?) of such predecessors as Spirit Caravan, but with the added bonus of the siren vocals of Kate McKeown, a singer whose range goes from the high and clear to whisky soaked growls. Female fronted acts are still too far and few between in rock and metal, so her presence greatly enhances the band, but rather than becoming a simple gimmick she trades lines and harmonizes with her male bandmates to bring a fresh delivery. This is no more apparent than on ‘The Cull’, a hook laden groove playing throughout the track with apparently every member of the band lending their voice to the lyrics.
With only five tracks making up the album’s forty minutes, there is no space for any filler, and each track is delivered with class and passion. However, for me there was one absolute stand out in the form of ‘…To Death (I’ll Drink)’. The instruments start out slow and doom laden, with more than a hint of classic Saint Vitus, and when the mournful vocals cry out “I will drink myself to death” it is as if Wino himself had been reborn as a woman, the desolation and loss of the lyrics matching the theme so well played by Dave Chandler and cohorts, delivered with an impassioned pain and suffering that is delivered with such conviction that it hints of a terrible past loss. Modern so called “R’n’B Divas” could do well to listen to this album to hear what it sounds like to deliver emotion without the necessity of cranking up the auto-tune.
‘The Great Depression’ is a thoroughly worthy addition to the library of any fan of stoner doom, with strong hints of the era of psychedelic rock running through the album. The fact that they are a home grown band, hailing from Sunderland, is yet another reason to support Witch Charmer, their sound standing up with head held high against so many of the international acts coming through.