I hadn’t caught the debut album of Dead Witches, which is a bit of an oversight for me, given that I’ve been a fan of Mark Greening’s other projects, such as the obligatory Electric Wizard, Ramesses and With The Dead. I’ve read that the band had changed line up on vocals and guitar since that debut album, 2017’s “Ouija”. It’s a pleasure then to get my hands on this album, and before I go any further, huge respect for such an eye catching cover! It’s not often these days that covers get much love, but the artwork for this album is so unusual and evocative, it’d be a mistake not to mention just how much I like it.

From the opening sample of “There’s Someone There”, which I presume comes from an old horror film or some such (I’d have to rely on the commentary of those far more in the know about such matters such as Thee Ed Pete Woods, or Master of the Macabre Spenny Bullen), but it sets the scene perfectly. The title track, “The Final Exorcism” comes howling out of the speakers, with full on leaden riffing, super-fuzzed axe work, the as always compelling doomed-down drumwork of Greening, and the greatest revelation in the voice of Soozi Chameleone. I think it entirely fair to say that she may well be my new favourite female doom vocalist; equal parts gravelly roar and terrified, soulful croon. Of course, there is a heavy reliance on the bass work of Carl Geary to help add an almost serpentine rhythm to the songs. Yes, of course, there is the comparison to Electric Wizard, which is almost inevitable, and many of these tracks wouldn’t sound out of place if they were on a bonus disc of Dopethrone, but it really is those vocals that provide something extra alongside the tried and tested formula of super-spaced out Sabbathian vibes and spooky seventies keyboard effects and samples.

Halfway through the album, after stand-out track “Goddess of the Night” is a weird 1:40 acoustic almost pop number “When do the dead see the Sun”, before ultra gnarly “The Church By The Sea” drags itself crawling from your stereo. With a sound more craggy and rough than an old tree branch, this is music to zone out to.  Greening’s drumwork is mesmerising; along with the meat and potatoes of pinning the whole thing down, his inventive and unpredictable fills keep everything feeling just a little unhinged. “Lay, Demon”, with its playful and sinister vocal riff on the “Lay Lady Lay” lyric feels like the ultimate end point of blues based rock turned up to eleven. Massive mono-slab axe work collides with the bass rumble, creating these mini-vortices of doom. The massive “Fear The Priest”, a whopping 9:29 minutes long hymn to excess closes proceedings, full of the same kind of warning vibe that Sabbath had on their opening track from their debut album. Doom distilled to dread advice from a band that needs to be dreaded.

To my ears at least, this is the sound of a doom band that’s equal to anything I’ve heard put out by the more fuzzy and noisy contingent of the genre in the last five years. Personally, I think it’s a whole notch above 2017’s “Wizard Bloody Wizard”, and I’d love to hear more from them.

(8.5/10 Chris Davison)