Karyn Crisis' Gospel of the Witches - Salem's Wounds 01Karyn Crisis needs no introduction. Her ability to use her considerable vocal cords, going from charming siren to raging banshee to guttural demon (sometimes within the same breath), is quite legendary. When her band, Crisis, went belly-up in 2006, Karyn took a sabbatical from music to concentrate on her art before meeting up with Davide Tiso, future husband and mastermind behind Italian avant-garde machine Ephel Duath in 2009, joining his band 2011, and releasing one EP (2012’s On Death and Cosmos) and one full-length (2013’s Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness) before Davide would dissolve the band in 2014. Despite Ephel Duath‘s dissolution, Tiso and Crisis would continue to collaborate, this time on a more primal, deeply spiritual project. Rounded out by Immolation‘s Ross Dolan and Mike Hill (Tombs) on backing vocals, and Charlie Schmid (Vaura) on drums, Gospel of the Witches is the sound of rebirth, spiritual determination, and a homage to the witch – a powerful symbol for women the world over. So how does their debut, Salem’s Wounds, do in conveying such a strong, personal idea?

If you are expecting hardcore with crazed banshee screams, go back to Crisis‘s 1997 album The Hallowing. And don’t come here expecting Tiso’s brand of Italian weirdness, either. Instead, Salem’s Wounds is a primal, tribal affair with pinches of gothic and sludge influences sprinkled throughout. Opener “Omphalus” arrives with layers of Tiso’s guitars and bass before Schmid arrives with a simple, driving tribal backdrop. Karyn comes in quietly with “I am no one/I am nothing/I am nowhere,” and maintains that timbre until she’s joined by Dolan for the second half of the song, where she delivers a matured version of her trademark howls and screams, ramping the intensity of the song considerably. The only comparison I can make to this is Laguz – Within the Lake-era Nebelhexë, but considerably darker and heavier. Quite the promising start.

The highlights don’t stop there, thankfully. “The Alchemist” recalls moments from The Hallowing, a slow, plodding number once again highlighted by the vocal trade-off between Dolan and Crisis. Album highlight “Mother” stands out for its lyrical content and delivery, with its chorus of “Mother, I can feel your flesh burning/Mother, I can smell your sacrifice/Mother, I can feel your flesh burning/Mother, the witch is burning” hissed out like a woman recalling the Salem witch trials with vitriolic hatred and contempt. Its companion piece, “Father,” is (to me) the first-person accounts of one of the victims burning, offering her body and spirits to the gods over a heavy tribal beat and sparse electronics.

Karyn Crisis' Gospel of the Witches - Salem's Wounds 02a

So is this album the spiritual awakening you’ve been waiting for? It depends on your mileage. Simply put, this is a difficult album to crack at first. The sheer length of the album (over an hour) can be too much, and some ideas don’t work quite as well as others, such as the spoken word parts of “The Secret.” The second half of the album, starting with “Goddess of Light,” isn’t as strong as the first half, with only closer “The Ascent” ramping up the intensity back to necessary levels. Also, this album demands your undivided attention, otherwise you will be lost amid the sea of programmed noises and uncomfortable (in a good way) singing. Thankfully, the production makes listening an otherwise comfortable experience, with Crisis’s vocals not too high above the bass and guitars. It’s just the right mix for this kind of music.

Salem’s Wounds was a difficult album to consume as well as to review. You can tell the album was recorded with conviction and spiritual energy, especially when it’s delivered by someone who’s as intensely spiritual as Crisis is. That said, this album is growing on me more and more with each listen. There’s always something new to find here, and even if parts don’t click well, you can definitely say that this was the work of passionate musicians. I’m hoping to hear more.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Website: Facebook.com/GospeloftheWitches
Release Dates: EU: 2015.03.06 | NA: 03.24.2015

  • Lasse Momme

    Holy female vocalist, Batman! Why have I never heard of this creature before? seriously, the screams on Omphalos are fucking otherworldly, how have I never heard of her?? Why didn’t anyone tell me dammit!? This is absolutely terrific Grymm, thank you so much for reviewing this.

    • kaeru92

      Never heard of her before as well, and I was listening to the preview while reading the preview. So when she started screaming I thought : oh there is a dude too, pretty cool. Then I checked the clip… shieeet !

    • Sorry, she was one of my first metal crushes. I just wanted to keep her all to myself. And I still believe we’re meant to each other. Is that *so* weird?

    • Óðhinn

      She was the vocalist for the band Crisis. I guess they’ve never really become widely known, but they did record four albums. If you’re into female vocalists, check out the bands Made Out of Babies and Nod Nod.

      • Grymm

        I miss Made Out of Babies.

        Julie Christmas is amazing. Easily one of the craziest, most talented frontwomen out there.

        • Óðhinn

          Me too. Agreed about Julie Chritmas. She has such a strong presence. I just love her music.

  • Jeff Kent

    Nit picky anatomy correction…it’s vocal cords, not chords.

    • Grymm

      Damnit, I’m usually anaal about that (see what I did there?).

      Thank you for pointing that out!

      • Grymm

        Also… FIXED!

  • Wilhelm

    I never liked her vocals, well when they are “pretty” they sound good, otherwise she sounds like me on the toilet after eating too much cheese.

    • Martin Knap

      dude, that was mean :-)

  • That’s Robert Vigna of Immolation on guitar too! Interesting song. The pairing of clean female vocals and Ross’s death growls reminds me of the Patty Griffin/ Steve Tucker duets in the film Cremaster 2.

  • Jean-Luc Ricard

    Ooh I love the embedded track, nice and doomy, great layers.

  • Spirit_Crusher

    Very cool and evocative.

  • Brian Kelly

    the embedded song is not too bad, seemed a little disorganized in parts and couldve used some re-arrangement or trimming, but the voice the woman singer starts using around 1:37 i think is plainly awful. she sounds just like a man singing really badly. the quieter voice is fine and the smaller amounts of her death vocals are fine, but that ‘strong-style’ voice or however you’d call it is used in most of the song and its just really bad. i usually fine with most vocals of any style, but i dont think ive ever heard anything quite like that voice. i think theyd have been better off letting a guy sing those sections.

  • Eli Valcik

    this is a total 4.0/5.0 for me, a bit late to leave this comment but I want it here for the record. Big fan of old Crisis and I am absolutely digging this evil doom album.