Another review, and yet another band I’d never heard of, in this case Purple Hill Witch. Despite hailing from the wintery realms of Norway, they are not a new addition to that region’s pantheon of corpse paint wearing child frighteners, rather an act that are massively indebted to the proto-metal sounds that evolved into the music that I imagine as readers of this esteemed site we all love. Easing the listener into the album is a long church organ intro, surely influenced by another well known band with a hint of Purple about them, the initially almost hymnal structure of ‘Ghouls in Leather’ building with the addition of guitar, bass and drums, all before the keyboards are replaced by a rock hard riff and high pitched vocals that make the track sound like nothing so much as a lost Budgie demo track that has been brought blinking into the light for all to enjoy. Even the time changes between a rocking gallop and almost doom laden stagger hail back to the age of flares, sideburns, and Whispering Bob Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Letting the track run to a full eight minutes plus allows it to evolve and meander without sounding rushed or in any way manufactured for a modern audience.
This trip back to the Seventies continues unabated with ‘Harbinger of Death’, slower beats and mournfully delivered lyrics adding lashings early Doom to the mix, a sound perfectly in tune with the title of the track, and for that matter, the album. Full on Sabbath worship abounds with the title track ‘Celestial Cemetery’, and hey, if you’re going to be influenced by anybody, why not by one of the classics. ‘Around The Universe’ adds a more Prog sound to the band’s delivery, particularly in the complex and bombastic drum runs, albeit the instrumental flourishes of guitarist Kristian owe rather more than a little to a certain Mr Iommi; I refer the honourable reader to my prior sentence.
The DIY lo-fi sound flows on with ‘Menticide’, the track dripping with the snarl and swagger of early NWOBHM, another vintage sound that Purple Hill Witch must listen to regularly to develop their own style, the harder edge cutting through ‘The First Encounter’, complete with a punk tinged loose guitar solo to finish off the song. Rounding out the album is ‘Burnt Offering’, a track that shows the debt that Metal owes to Blues with its harmonica solo playing against the guitar lead, the whole coming together like one of the musical experiments of Peter Green in his last days with Fleetwood Mac. Just before the hate mail arrives, those who think that mentioning those soft rock dinosaurs on a mainly Metal site is some sort of heresy should check out the early days of the band when they were lead by the aforementioned Mr Green, and remember that one of their tracks ‘Green Manalishi’ is an almost obligatory part of the mighty Judas Priest’s live repertoire.
Whilst the whole review makes it sound like Purple Hill Witch have nothing to offer but a retro-tinged trip down memory lane, what they bring to their own take on the sound is an obvious reverence and admiration for their musical forefathers, as well as a whole heap of energy and enthusiasm. ‘Celestial Cemetery’ is an unashamed and unpretentious offering of solid rock, and for that, Purple Hill Witch deserve recognition.