Bell Witch Four Phantoms 01I have to be honest. Aside from my love for doom metal, the main reason I picked up this promo was that it is released by Profound Lore Records, which has become a by-word for quality in recent times. The list goes on and on. The prospect of a new funeral death doom release on this label had me all kinds of excited for crushing riffs, destructive power and abject desolation, especially considering the hype surrounding Bell Witch‘s 2012 début, Longing. Funeral doom is never an accessible genre so I’ve allowed an appropriate gestation period and given Four Phantoms a lot of time to settle. Has Profound Lore struck gold again?

My initial response was distressing disappointment. There was very little here to hold my attention, as much seemed lethargic and passionless. I suppose this could be an issue with the genre itself, though there has been funeral doom which immediately struck me (Ahab and Funeral for example). Four Phantoms doesn’t stray far from the genre’s defined limitations: thick chords resonate sequentially but leisurely, challenging the boundaries of what constitutes a melody; distant death growls act as more of an abstract instrument than a lyrical operator; the percussion draws these aspects together into a dirge. Bell Witch uses a lo-fi, fuzzy tone and production which absolutely suits the music, despite the meager dynamic range of 3. Across all this, on first listen there didn’t appear to be anything special here.

Bell Witch Four Phantoms 02Nonetheless, I stuck with it. This type of music is not one to immediately hook in a listener with attractive melodies, and I could certainly appreciate the sheer power endemic to the genre. And as I did so, patterns began to emerge. Little subtleties which shot over my head the first time around, motifs which tie the long songs together.

The third track, “Suffocation, A Drowning…,” is superb given a few runs – granted, three listens of this song exceeds an hour, so take this with a pinch of salt. But I urge patience particularly on this song since it is now mounting a stern challenge to my top songs of 2015. The riff which opens is so simple but so evocative, and the clean vocals, almost a pained whisper, subtly contribute to this effect. When the lead-proper rears its head around the three minute mark, it develops the melody into heavier territory while maintaining its melancholy. Progressing further, the section from 6:00 until 10:00 is completely euphoric, demonstrating good dynamic awareness: peaks to complement the troughs highlight the emotions at both ends. The key musical idea from the beginning is never lost, even through the heaviest section in the third quarter, and the effective cleans at 16:00 remind me of Pallbearer‘s Foundations of Burden. Opener, “Suffocation, A Burial…,” is similar to this in its positive progressions, though resides in the realms of good rather than outstanding.

However, these positives must be qualified: this is only satisfactorily apparent on these two tracks. The other two which round out the album, “Judgement, In Fire…” and “Judgement, In Air…,” are both superfluous in comparison. The former is dull until a promising crescendo around the seven minute mark, though this inexplicably fades before climaxing. The latter is entirely redundant and should have been cut – this would have had the additional benefit of limiting Four Phantoms‘s excessive length. They are both too passive and don’t develop a head of steam, limiting themselves to filler around the longer main songs.

In short, this is a record of two halves. The “Suffocation” tracks are solid and awesome respectively, whereas the “Judgement” tracks are both expendable. Bell Witch does have serious talent – unlike on my first listen, I can now understand why Profound Lore signed them – but talent is not the same as consistency. Until their next release, I can fondly repeat “Suffocation, A Drowning…” and fawn over the artfully macabre album cover endlessly.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 3 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore Records
Websites: BellWitchOfficial | Facebook.com/BellWitch
Release Dates: Worldwide: 04.28.2015

Share →
  • Martin Knap

    Funeral doom can really help you to delay orgasm. Recommended by 4 out of 5 tantric yogis.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    That cover art, tho :(

    • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

      The cover is awesome

    • Martin Knap

      Yeah, I went and looked it up in high definition.pretty rare for me because as a would be artist myself I’m not easily impressed…

  • Iliast

    This is a very solid and fair review. I am still not sure what to make of this album, but your a) coverage and b) assessment are both top-notch.

  • I can sometimes really get into funeral doom, but I feel this is rather background-y. (Although I didn’t listen to it all that much yet.)
    However, on the album art… insanely beautiful. Trying to figure out which of the four is which part (that’s how it goes, right?)

  • Wilhelm

    Skip this and listen to the new Shape of Despair song instead – A DR3, are you kidding me? PL usually has bands who are a bit more dynamic.

    • El_Cuervo

      I had made my mind up about the album before reading the dynamic range. It really isn’t a factor in the way this is produced, I hadn’t noted it for a poor range. Dynamic range is not the be-all and end-all of production.

      • Wilhelm

        You’re right, there are other factors but listening to the embedded track, I just didn’t feel this sounded good.

      • Alexandre Barata

        It’s a bit noisy, but the mixing is pretty good. I’m still waiting though for the new Ahab album to be released as the top Funeral Doom from 2015 ;)

    • funeraldoombuggy

      Shape of despairs Angels of Destress is a DR4, and for me that’s my fav funeral doom album ever. I’ve wondered how the DR range meter works exactly and if slower music vs faster music had an effect on how it reads.

      • Yes, the material can have an effect on the score, so as it has been mentioned around, level match, listen for yourself and make up your mind.

      • Wilhelm

        Killer album but the sound isn’t flawless. I think this was recorded on tape which at least gives it a little more dimension. I only wish that whoever mastered this could have opened it up a bit more.

  • Excentric_1307

    I went to the bottom, saw the score was a 2.5, saw the DR was a 3, and went “Nope”.

    • Martin Knap

      aren’t you a sound nazi?

      • Aren’t you? And if not Martin, why not? :-)

        • Martin Knap

          In fact, yes I am. I’m getting a tattoo that says DR11 soon ;-)

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      God forbid you actually listen to it and form your own opinion.

      • Wilhelm

        Has a DR3 ever resulted in anything good? I’m scratching my head.

        • Well, the only thing I can think of here is that the music itself isn’t very dynamic. For example, with a drone based Sunn O))) record, some tracks literally have a few notes for minutes on end. You just aren’t going to see a high crest factor no matter what you do.

          I have not heard this one since a) PL refuses to give me promos despite asking a few times and even asking for ones I’ve personally bought and b) I thought the first one was way overrated by the press.

          But even based on EC’s review, DR3 seems ridiculous for doom metal.

          Before anyone jumps down my throat, please go listen to Mournful Congregation’s last EP? Ta da!

          • Grymm

            Concrescense of the Sophia is so damn good still.

  • Album art of the year so far.

    • Alexandre Barata

      Seems a bit like last Blut Aus Nord, not that that is negative at all :)

    • Monsterth Goatom

      By Paolo Girardi, the same artist who did the cover for Obscure Verses for the Multiverse and Manila Road’s Blessed Curse.

      Quite a lot of good cover art this year – Abyssal Gods, Melechesh, Ethereal, Callisto, Dynfari, etc.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Great review dude. Loud album and quite monotonous. Thanks for all of the links to other, more enjoyable-sounding albums though from PL!

    • I’ll say it again, any year I could get lazy and just post all the Profound Lore releases as a very decent year end list.

      Example, last year, besides those already mentioned (Dawnbringer, Pallbearer and Artificial Brain) it had Lord Mantis, Alraune, Avichi, Coffinworm, Occultation, Witch Mountain, Menace Ruine, Wolvhammer and Old Man Gloom.

      It’s so consistently good that I’m quite surprised they actually got a 2.5.

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        Crap dude, I had no idea they were behind all of those releases. Lord Mantis and Old Man Gloom? Heck… I am impressed. Time to do some digging further into the lore of… Profound Lore…. I tried, ok? I apologise, Captain Druhm. I know puns are not my forte, spare me from your inner wrath!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    That cover would look amazing on a vinyl version

  • DG

    I’m just now beginning to dig into this album, but I absolutely loved Longing and still spin it regularly. Musically, I feel like this expands on what Longing had to offer, though it’s all the more daunting because of that. Definitely requires some more listens on my end.

    I didn’t look at the waveforms or DR scores before listening, but it immediately jumped out at me that there’s clipping here. My ears may deceive me though, and it may just be the crazy amount of distortion on the bass. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Meat Tornado

    I really like this album.

    It might be worth noting that (and this is what I have been able to find out) there is no guitar in this band, that all the “guitar parts” are played on bass. That’s right, NO GUITAR. (please correct me if I’m wrong).

    Maybe this results in a lower DR score? No idea.

    Either way that is pretty damn cool, and I love this album. Not to mention easily the cover art of the year

    • Meat Tornado

      Yes, according to bandcamp and metallum, only bass and drummer, both doing vocals.

  • EnricoIsPixelated

    Giving this masterpiece 2.5 out of 5 reeks of edgelord you are most certainly alone on your feelings about this album