Australia’s Witchskull are still relative newcomers to the doom scene. Formed in 2014 and with one release to their name, 2016’s “The Vast Electric Dark”, the Canberra based outfit have scrounged the depths for the kind of riffs that make up sophomore release “Coven’s Will”.
What is striking from the outset is the bigness of their sound. Untamed and expansive, there’s a melodic bounce found on “Raven” mixed with the slinky riffs of “Son Of The Snake”. Bringing in shades of Orange Goblin and more than a nod toward Black Sabbath, Marcus De Pasquale on guitar and vocals punches out primal chords and pushes his voice in a manner that makes the listener believe every word that’s being delivered. Fans of Desert Storm will be satisfied with the southern sludge stylings of “Breathing Blue Light” which is a full on groove machine. The vocals have a nice slant that weave through the music rather than sitting above it making this track a highlight. Tony McMahon on bass and drummer Joel Green complete the trio and manage to add some serious weight to what are already pretty heavy tones.
The second half of the album finds the band more weighted in Black Sabbath territory where said band’s influences become quite obvious. The driving, circular rhythms of “Spyres” has a sort of “Hole In The Sky” quality while “Lord Of The Void” is a swinging, riff laden beast. Full of a heads down, propulsive crunch interjected with stinging guitar breaks, the suspected play on Sabbath’s “Into The Void” appears at the back end of the track with its’ apocalyptic chug. There are so many bands within the doom genre that feed off the Sabbath template and it needs to be done very well if a refreshing mark is to be made. Fortunately for Witchskull, they manage to succeed as these tracks are very engaging with none overstaying their welcome. Finishing with the doomy “The Empty Well”, the use of light and shade with vocal effects make for an eerie soundscape as it slips into a time shift that is simply joyous heavy metal thunder.
With eight tracks coming in at around 35 minutes, “Coven’s Will” is a punchy, no filler outing from this band. Fans of early heavy metal will embrace it no doubt delighting in that early 70’s inspired grunt. While the band make their influences quite obvious, it is nonetheless a fine sounding album full of quality, hard hitting sounds.
(7/10 Johnny Zed)