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Sea Witch : The Blackened Sea

Sea Witch's debut is a seriously doomy affair infused with compelling maritime imagery.

"For he spoke, and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away." (Psalm 107)

The instrumental, nautical Sludge/Doom of Canadian duo Sea Witch ought to sort out the men from the boys so to speak. Formed last year, during which their initial demos were released, the two band members came together to forge a sound rooted in heavy Doom, yet taking on board darker, folky and droning elements. Not so much about 'light and shade' as moving from gloomy, softer passages to the extreme end of slow and heavy.

The two demos, 'As Above' and 'So Below', harkened back to the lo-fi Black metal charm of the bands Velvet Cacoon and Clair Cassis, particularly the first one which encorporated a far more blackened overall feel within its doomy realm. That's not to say 'The Blackened Sea' is without its Black moments, or atmosphere: at times Sea Witch come across as a black metal band made up of morose pirates, who've taken vast quantities of tranquilisers and washed them all down with a plentiful supply of the Captain's port. Barely able to get out of first gear, the funereal pace of the music, together with its sludgy heaviness, and the watery, dreamlike atmosphere it creates, is thick with tragedy, yet a highly compelling and markedly unsettling experience.

Given their name, and overall aesthetic, it will be difficult to get through this without making certain obvious references to the sea, and its inhabitants, both above the surface, and below it. Case in point would be the track 'Dark Vessel', which begins with such mournful tones, one might begin to imagine a crowd of rain soaked sailors lamenting the loss of a drowned shipmate, cursing the waves that took him, and sucking down sufficient enough rum to ease their aching hearts. Strangely enough, for an instrumental band, as well as being truly engaging from start to finish, the songs are rich in concept and folklore, with each track beautifully evoking its title and the imagery associated with it.

The artwork comes courtesy of Frenchman Gustave Doré, whose panel engravings are by their own admission more of an influence on the band than anything particularly musical. The cover for 'The Blackened Sea' is a panel from Doré's work for Taylor Coleridge's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. Download the album from their Bandcamp page to find out just how important imagery is to this band, and how well they nail their sound to the pictures.

Although primarily sludgy in approach and funereal in pace, the dark, folky atmospheres (there's an accordion in there somewhere), and Black metal vibes give 'The Blackened Sea' its own peculiar, multi-faceted charm. Tracks like 'No Honour', weighing in at fourteen minutes, would probably sit just as comfortably with fans of Ahab as well as Moss or even Sea Bastard, as the music relentlessly pounds away, lilting to and fro like the waves pummelling an old wreck run aground. In fact for most of the album there is precious little let up from the slow, heavy undulating sludgy currents. Brief moments of respite, such as the middle section of 'Tempest' only serve to heighten the lachrymose tension. With all the mention of sludge and black metal it would be prudent to add that 'The Blackened Sea' is a seriously doomy affair, and will most likely find a home with many fans of the Funeral and Atmospheric ends of the spectrum.

Lastly, there's a good deal of grief, misery and lamemtation going on here. This is music which conjures up life's darkest moments, the battles won and lost, the struggles, as well as those who have fallen along the way and presents it in metaphors of the maritime. If the soul's journey in life is akin to rowing across an ocean, solo, then Sea Witch truly compose a soundtrack for those in peril on the sea.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Dark Vessel
2. Call Of The Leviathan
3. No Honour
4. Tempest
5. The Stormrider
6. Down With The Ship

Duration : Approx. 55 minutes

Visit the Sea Witch bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-08-13 by Matt Halsey
Aesthetic Death
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