Hey, how’s your day? You probably aren’t having a good one. Boss wants you to work the weekend? Vexed by an ever thinning bank account? Maybe it’s humankind as a whole that’s squeezing the goodwill from your body, like toothpaste escaping a tube crushed by an elephant that’s really let itself go. Worry not my child for the balm to salve your festering wounds exists in the form of a split from Demonomancy and Witchcraft. Bestial, coarse and outright evil, this 26-minute payload of blackened death offers a brief respite for those needing an outlet for their rancor.
Information on both bands is unsurprisingly slight but they seem to be relatively green, having only toiled in the salt mines for a number of years with the odd demo and split release to show for it, though Demonomancy did release their first full-length in 2013. Both bands come from countries with respected underground scenes, Italy for Demonomancy and Finland for Witchcraft (no relation to the Swedish doom peddlers of the same name).
The first two tracks belong to Demonomancy and while straightforward, the pair are well executed and after a few spins managed to become stuck in my head. The focus on mid-tempo groove brings to mind Carpathian Forest crossed with Morbid Tales-era Celtic Frost, no doubt helped by the odd sprinklings of Tom G. Warrior-like “oohs.” The music is loose and filthy but the band displays their song-writing chops with deft attention to pace, knowing when to speed the tempo up and when to bring it down. This is important as opener “Archaic Remnants of the Numinous” is over 8 minutes long; a length of rope long enough to hang most bands with but Demonomancy manage to pull it off… just. It’s nothing revelatory but both tracks had me mildly nodding my head whilst listening to them at work, a minor sacrifice to decorum as full-blown head banging would lead to an awkward and uncomfortable HR dressing-down. Again.
Witchcraft occupies the last 3 tracks of the split and after repeated spins I’m still not sure if the band are taking the piss or not. “At the Diabolus Hour” is the bottle of champagne that launches this macabre ship – a song – and I use the term loosely – that is nothing more than guttural belching accompanied by discordant, whinnying lead guitar, a combination that sounds like a dying horse slowly being digested in Beelzebub’s bowels. Frenetic blast-beats and buzzsaw riffing are the focus for “Grave Immolation,” whose muffled, sounds-like-it-was-recorded-in-a-shallow-grave production brings to mind Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal. This track would be utterly forgettable if it wasn’t for the interesting way in which Witchcraft mixed the Demilich-esque vocals, having them sporadically leap to the foreground, wet and feculent, which contrasts nicely with the dry and smothered instrumentation. Closing out the album is “Perverted Temple of Goat Sodomy” which surprisingly slows down the pace with a crawling riff and restrained percussion that bears some resemblance to early Candlemass. This is the standout track of the MLP, and although it’s built around a relatively simple riff, the subtle but intelligent approach to composition and chord progression engages the listener and draws them deeply into the music.
I’m going to put it out there and state emphatically this split isn’t by any means an amazing musical niblet. It won’t go down as an underground classic nor will you be overcome with desire to carve either band’s logo into your forearm. That aside, what’s presented here is relatively engaging and doesn’t overstay its welcome. This is not music to absorb whilst supine in an ornate chair, fingers steepled and eyes closed, allowing one’s consciousness to ponder the unfathomable mysteries of the universe. No, this is ugly, angry music, unvarnished and unkempt. If your misery seeks company then Demonomancy and Witchcraft might serve as ample distraction. Just keep your expectations in check.