When I first saw the moniker of this band my heart sank. “Another example of violent misogyny in the world of extreme music “ Ironic as I was wearing a Lunatic Hooker tee at the time. I could not be more wrong and this 6 tracker from Somerset’s Dead Woman’s Ditch could not be further from Cumming Blood and disfiguring the downtrodden sex workers.

This was first released in August – must be something about the postal system that meant it took this long to reach Ace Noctum Acres. Thank badness it did.  Dead Woman’s Ditch offer up dome home-grown historical stories of nastiness for those fed up of blokes from Slough pretending to be Vikings. There is fayre for the rune wearing Norseman here too as a look into the band online reveals.  This quartet originated 4 years ago whilst Glenn Charman was treading the boards with Electric Wizard. He handles guitar and vocals here and dragged along George Rhone – Vocals Guitar , Chris Rust – Bass and Robin Corbet – Drums , for the nocturnal ride.

Dead Woman’s Ditch is an Iron Age earthworks in the Quantocks beholden to lot of dark doings! Wives were murdered and dumped in the ditch in the 18th Century with the guilty husband’s hanged corpse left to rot nearby for a year and day. Ghosts of Viking children are said to haunt the area after a horde was massacred and a nearby pool appears in legends where a Norse smith god cooled horseshoes he made to shoe the Wild Hunt. Add to that a legend of the “Gurt Wurm” a huge dragon like creature with the girth of two oak trees and there is enough for a dozen concept albums down in Somerset. I thought it was all cider!

So onto the music – the important stuff. Dead Woman’s Ditch blend Black Metal, Doom, Stoner and Pyche through a sludgy gusset to make a heady brew.   Opener “The Ugly Truths” is brutally dark. The rasping Black Metal vocals cutting across tremolo guitars before a clean despairing voice is joined by a gargantuan riff.  It conjures up an image of man meeting a dark ancient evil – organic and all encompassing, impossible to stop. Then some groove kicks in casting some light into the dark woods.

When “Failed to Rot” begins you would be forgiven for thinking that an old Immortal track has been unearthed. The rampant drumming and throaty rasp is very close to the Norwegians early oeuvre. Hearing the long “ess” on madness in the lyric certainly cast my ears and mind back to the frostbitten 90’s.  “We are Forgiven” sees the two vocalists trade off clean tenor vocals with demonic rasp creating a dramatic, cinematic effect. Whilst “Break the Mind” comes across like Blackened Stoner (a new subgenre- surely not?)  with discordance added into the desert groove by the juxtaposition of the evil half of the vocal duo.  It ends in a bludgeoning riff which repeats to strangely meditative feedback before segueing into the wonderful “Mr Kipper”.  Like Cathedral fighting with the Cardiacs at a Black Mass.

“The Crusade” is epic. Ridley Scott epic. Over 11 minutes of oppressive yet utterly immersive Doooooooooooom and noise. Huge riffs with chest shaking bottom ends, razor sharp guitar leads, psychedelic middle eastern meanders off the dark path, it’s all here.  Chants are mixed with evangelical samples and droning noise for several minutes towards the end before raw splashy drums kick back in defiantly over looped muted screams.

Dead Woman’s Ditch are a black light in a world of hipster doom and black metal clones. I love the twin edged sword of the vocal delivery and the use of cinema and drama that permeates all six tracks. Can’t wait to hear more.

(8.5/10 Matt Mason)