REVIEW: Bell Witch - Longing

Genre: Sludge/Doom Metal
Label: Profound Lore Records
Date of Release: November 13, 2012


The sound of sludge and doom metal is highly associated with invoking horror among its listeners. The sluggish paces, the dark, echoing atmospheres, and melancholy lyrics and artwork are some of the most remarkable traits of this fusion of genres. Seattle, Washington duo Bell Witch is a band that certainly follows this outline. They formed in 2010, consisting of bassist Dylan Desmond and drummer Adrian Guerra, who both also perform in stoner rock band Lethe. They released their first self-titled demo in 2011, which attracted the attention of Canadian label Profound Lore Records, home of acts such as Agalloch, Portal, and Mitochondrion. After striking a deal with that label, Bell Witch returned in 2012 to release his debut full-length record named “Longing.” Any passerby who takes a glimpse at the haunting album artwork knows what they are in for: Dark, atmospheric, and creeping metal that is simply far from cheery.

As stated earlier, Bell Witch stays true to its sludge-doom genre, and this is proven in “Longing.” Tortured screams, shrieks, and bellows give the music an echoing, horrifying vibe, but that is not even the half of what this album has to offer. The guitars brandish trenched, low-tuned riffs to engulf the listener in slow brutality. However, when they are not doing that, they instead deliver deep, haunting, and sluggish melodies that really underline the sorrow of this record’s atmosphere. This is especially showcased in the interlude “Beneath the Mask,” where the slowly strummed melodies and an audio clip from 1964 horror film The Masque of the Red Death fuse together to depict the sorrowful march down to eternal suffering. The drums structure the slow pace of the band’s sludge-doom onslaught, and the way they echo adds some more to the music’s dark nature. All of the musical elements in this record are great, and mixes together to create a sturdy sludge-doom metal structure.

However, out of all of the aspects and traits of “Longing,” the most remarkable characteristic of this record would be the clean singing. The singing is deep, resonant, and delivers even more ambience to the rest of the music. Sometimes the singing is performed in duets, and this creates a sound of a church choir of ghosts. This is especially displayed well in the track “Longing (the River of Ash),” where the instrumentations, in total, cover up only about half of the track. The vocals shape the majority of the track’s ambience, and it is played out incredibly well. It alone really stands out by itself, and helps in paving a road of dark resonance and atmosphere for this record. It almost is as if actual specters are wandering and moaning inside of your speakers or headphones, and it is as unsettling as it is very well done. Overall, the clean singing truly stands out of the rest of what “Longing” has put on the table as the album’s greatest highlight.

The artwork, as pointed out earlier, is parallel to the type of music that Bell Witch delivers here: Gloomy, raw, and atmospheric. The lyrics also display the same darkness as the music and the album artwork. Not-so-optimistic themes of death, emptiness, and despair are dwelled upon. The unsettling audio clip from The Masque of the Red Death placed in the interlude also underlines the deathly themes of the lyrics. They are quite typical for their genre, but this does help in reinforcing the gloom emitted by the album’s somber sounds. Overall, the artwork and lyrics could not have been more suiting for “Longing’s” doom metal mold.

While the self-titled EP showed much promise, “Longing” is a very good release. It’s an incredibly solid record that seamlessly fuses the murky sound of sludge metal with the woeful atmospheres of doom metal. The heart-churning growls and high-pitch vocals, the raw instrumentation, the sorrowful lyrics, and, most importantly, the ghastly singing, all mix together to create quite an enjoyable  There appears to be, however, one glaring issue with this album: The lack of progression at certain points. The music tends to lose its grip on buildup, causing it to sound a bit repetitive at times. On top of that, since the tracks in “Longing” are quite lengthy, reaching up to over 20 minutes long, this sadly makes this drawback even more cumbersome. Aside from that, though, “Longing” is a great release, and fans of the sludge and doom metal genres really should try it out. Prepare for the journey down the dark depths of despair. 

Score: 7.5/10 (Solid+)