Space Witch - ArcanumAll musicians have to cope with the amount of music similar to their own. There are thousands of bands in any given sub-genre: how do you distinguish yourself? Lately, I’ve felt this stronger with stoner-doom than any other metal genre. Every band peddles 15-minute songs of plodding cyclical riffing, various sorts of harshly belted vocals, and a slow stomping rhythm section. The bands that do anything different are far and few between, and quickly drop from their bin into a differently labeled one, like sludge-doom or progressive-something. Space Witch are pretty deeply entrenched in their stoner-doom categorization. These fellows from Stoke-on-Trent, UK are going unto the breach with their second album. Can they buck the trend of similar-sounding in the genre?

Arcanum consists of four lengthy tracks full of plodding cyclical riffing, particularly in the lengthiest songs, which bookend the album. These two, opener “Cosmonoid” and closer “Battle Hag,” are notable for being completely instrumental. Almost half an hour of heaving instrumental repetition is a lot to bear, and indeed Space Witch fail to live up to the challenge of writing themselves out of such a conundrum. “Cosmonoid” drags itself across the pavement of a single riff for its first eight minutes, before changing into second gear and crawling slightly quicker through the remainder of its 15-minute total on the back of a second riff. The main attempt to dispel the affliction of such dire dreariness is performed by the electronic section, a wonky and warbling mess of synthesizers that wanders in free-form across the recycled wasteland of riffs, taking several cues from Pink Floyd at their most spacey, reflecting “A Saucerful of Secrets” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” It merely serves as a momentary distraction, as it wanders too much to take a leading role, save for the canned choir near the end of the track.


Things don’t get quite as dire as the opener again but expect no miracles. “Astro Genocide” initially seems to be more down-tuned instrumental riffing beneath Floydian synths, but actual lead guitar work soon begs my attention, and when the riffs snap awake like a hypnotist gave his cue, actual life flows back into the album. Some harshly belted vocals add a touch of variation, and the song ties off with a riff that’s almost Swedish death metal. While neither is spectacularly executed, they both do more to liven up the album than any of the synthesizers. Side B is comprised of “Hex Solaris” and “Battle Hag,” which contains the same amount of ideas as side A but spread them a little more evenly over the two songs. The closer in particular sounds more lively, not just in pacing but in writing and execution, despite the lack of vocals.

Space Witch 2017

It’s not enough, though. Arcanum can not hold interest going through the familiar motions of every stoner-doom band below the top tier. Opening with the longest and poorest track certainly does them no favors there, but nothing on the remainder of the album redeems Space Witch. The production is fairly typical: loud and heavy, and a bit muddled in the low registers, giving it a mild case of swampiness. The instruments pierce the marshes easily though, and there is no discernible clipping in the master which stops well short of crushed.

I’m left with the strong feeling that, like many bands in the genre, this is not intended for spinning at home. Space Witch don’t play so you can sit at home and crochet with a cat in your lap listening to their tunes. Arcanum can’t hold my attention because it was never supposed to. This is music to be played in a small venue with pot smoke billowing out the eaves. In that setting, the four tracks on Arcanum will induce that lovely trance-like state where you’re feeling the music as much as you hear it (because your diaphragm won’t stop rattling.) But that doesn’t work on an album, and it doesn’t work sober. In a clear-headed and analytical state, Arcanum does not hold up. But feel free to alter your state of mind and observe the difference. For science, of course.


Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hevisike Records
Websites: spacewitch.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/spacewitchsludge
Releases Worldwide: June 9th, 2017

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  • Harsh. Were you even stoned when you listened to this?

    • GardensTale

      That wouldn’t be fair to other bands, I like everything when I’m stoned.

      • GrimStilt

        You couldn’t possibly like everything when stoned; considering we have extant Rebecca Black and hitimpulse(I’m in love with coco)

        • GardensTale

          I’d easily add two points to any review when I’m stoned though.

      • Felchmeister777

        You won’t when you grow up a little..

        • GardensTale

          Has nothing to do with growing up. It’s an effect the altered state of mind has on me. I can get really enthusiastic about fairly mundane stuff. Ask the other staff members, who had to endure my Slack ravings about a metal cover of the Disney song “Hellfire”.

  • foreverAlfon

    Pity, as the cover (and the band’s name) are pretty cool imo.

  • Zach Ward

    Anyone smoke weed here that could say their opinion on it high?? Not that I’ll ever try listening to it high, because I’m a good boy…. just a lil curious.

    • Nah, I only smoke in weekends, cause I’m a sensible parent, and this music wouldn’t be my first choice, even if I were stoned.
      Also, nice boys don’t play rock’n’roll.

      • sir_c

        Indeed, it’s pretty harsh to smoke during the week and have your kids miss all the fun ;-)

    • Drew Music

      As with all things, it made my reception/experiencing of the album more pleasant in that I, myself, was in an overall pleasant state, but it didn’t make the album any better. I still heard the same flaws, they just didn’t bother me as much. In all fairness, it’s not terrible as background jams.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Shouldn’t that be “few and far between”?

    • rumour_control

      Yes, but far and few between breaks the subtle pattern our good man is suggesting, no?

    • GardensTale

      Shut up, it’s poetic license.

  • [not a Dr]
  • Lithophyte

    The drumming drags. And the timing is off.

  • Spread Wide & Panic

    I genuinely think AMG – the site, not the dude – shouldn’t cover stoner/doom. And I truly do love this site and its take on metal, and the epic comments sections. But you guys consistently don’t really “get” stoner/doom. And that’s cool. But usually way off the mark. Peace.

    • spambot

      I’m a stoner/doom (and death metal) fan, and I feel that the doom tastes on this site lean a bit more towards epic doom than what I’m comfortable with. Too much clean vocals, not enough dirt and blues. But, I agree with this particular review. In the spirit of civilized doom discussion, what are the merits of this album that the reviewer didn’t get? Peace, too.

      • GardensTale

        I’m honestly curious about this, especially considering my last paragraph.

        • Spread Wide & Panic

          I addressed it above (in this mini-thread); I listen to a LOT of stoner/doom, both at home, and live. It’s just as good at home. Then again I smoke a shitton of cannabis.

      • Spread Wide & Panic

        Yeah, this was perhaps a poorly placed comment, lol. I’ve not actually heard this album! But it seems that every stoner/doom release gets a tepid (at best) to terrible review, things like Mothership, etc. I realize it’s not the forte or focal point of the site. It’s also why I don’t go to DoomCharts.com to read about what the best black metal albums are.

        • Zach Ward

          That seems like a bad comparison. From the name, it seems like Doomcharts.com only covers doom so covering black metal would be kind of off the charts for the (haha) but amg isn’t restricted to covering only one genre. They have many writers that all have different genres they like best. So they are not stuck reviewing the same type of metal over and over again.

    • I’m not sure I agree. I like a fair amount of stoner doom but as with all genres, we are fairly tough critics.

      • Spread Wide & Panic

        it’s fair, and you guys are, and that’s why I tend to trust the site’s reviews. Mostly. I just know to look elsewhere for doom/stoner is all. It’s all good, was just an observation I made while very stoned last night haha

        • Maybe we need to start handing out mind-altering drugs with our stoner doom promos. Can’t hurt, right?

          • Spread Wide & Panic

            I volunteer

          • All aboard AMG’s Magical Mystery Tour.

          • rumour_control

            Sounds should hold up regardless of the chemical intake, or lack there of. But, that’s me.

    • Felchmeister777

      They don’t ‘get’ that virtually all of it sounds EXACTLY the same…(?)

      • Spread Wide & Panic

        that’s just like, your opinion, man

        • Felchmeister777

          Yeah & we’re right…(that’s the royal ‘we’)

          • Spread Wide & Panic

            kidding aside, if you can listen to, in order, Fu Manchu, Electric Wizard, Elder, and then someone like Spidergawd, and say they all sound the same, well send me your address and I’ll mail you a month’s supply of Q-Tips :-)

          • Elder, which we gave a glowing review to, you mean!

          • Spread Wide & Panic

            lol touche – I knew as soon as I typed it that it would disprove my original point haha

          • Felchmeister777

            Ahh there are always exceptions, of course. However I would argue that it’s one of the most generic sub genres around at the moment.

            That’s not to take anything away from the ‘greats’ of course. Nevertheless, I can’t help wishing people would be a little more discerning en masse.

            Such is life…

          • GardensTale

            I’ll lie for free Q-tips

          • Spread Wide & Panic

            hahahahaha

  • Felchmeister777

    Sludgy, stoner metal? You guys are reviewing this kind of music now…?

    How refreshing…hopefully you’ll start reviewing Tech metal/slam/wank-core/whatever-the-fuck too.

    With a a few exceptions, obviously, metal is in a seriously sorry state at the moment.

    Originality? Distinct sound? Ahhh bollocks to that…

    • Drew Music

      Well, I learned of Khemmis from here, and they’re definitely sludgey as well as metal-y, plus a handful of other things, and they ended up being AMGs AOTY, but I hear you. There’s definitely been a fuckton of black metal as of late, I’ll give you that, but a quick perusal of the archives will still throw all sorts of bands from the varying ends of the metal spectrum your way. Have faith, I’ve been scouring the interwebz for years in my quest for all things metal and these guys are definitely among the best of the best for discovering bands, certainly the top of the tier when it comes to reviews.
      As to the state of metal, I’d say it’s as alive and well as any modern genre, it just depends on what you get to hear. Shitty metal is definitely out there, but there is so very much awesome new material coming our daily that I’d never say metal itself is in shit shape. Again, the archives here are a wonderful place to lurk if you’ve got a minute to spend seeking buried metal treasure.
      That’ll be two cents, please.

      • Felchmeister777

        I wish I shared your optimism! You’re right, good metal is out there…but i guess I’m just pissed off it’s taking longer and longer to wade through all the shite…

        Good post though! Cheers. Well worth the two cents…

        • Drew Music

          I don’t know how old you are, but for me it’s easy to stay optimistic when I remember life with dial-up, scarier still being my ever-dimming recollections of life before my family even got that. It used to be much more difficult to discover new bands, and given I’m only just shy of 30 I’m confident it will get even easier in the years to come. Sites like these are a godsend, and you’re not even in danger of getting booted from a video that took 10 minutes to buffer if someone uses the phone. Really, the almost infinite expanse of music at my fingertips is probably my favorite part of modern living.

          • Felchmeister777

            Good point. As much as I agree with a LOT of that, I also find it paradoxical. This day and age I’d argue that we have too much choice. It’s both a curse and a blessing…

            Good parallels here between music and film especially. These days anybody can make an album or a film. The resources are there & it’s cheap as hell. Hence great opportunities for budding artists of course. Yet on the flip side, quality control has gone to shit…

            So, in general I think you’re absolutely right. But I think that ‘instant availability ‘ can come at a cost. Big time…

          • Drew Music

            You’re absolutely right about the blessing/curse part, as well as quality control having wandered onto the Endangered Species list. The way I see it, though, the impact hits that much harder when you unearth something that punches you in the throat. I have zero problems systematically wading through the endless metal stream and lifting every rock along the way to find even the faintest of glimmering goodness.
            Whenever I get the chance, I begin my adventures by reading here or on Wikipedia about various bands I’m already familiar with and looking into other acts they’re affiliated with. Once I’ve gathered a few leads, I take to YouTube and peruse those bands’ offerings as well as their affiliates’ material. Once that rabbit hole has been as explored as thoroughly as I can endure, I’ll take off to Bandcamp and dig around suggested material and the collections of the select few similar-minded creeps that I follow there. After that’s done, if I have any time or mental energy left I wander to nocleansinging and see if Gorger, Andy Synn or Islander have anything to say, then it all begins again.
            I haven’t slept properly in years.

    • Nukenado

      Sludgy, doom metal? You guys are reviewing this kind of music now…?

      Sludgy, atmospheric metal? You guys are reviewing this kind of music now…?

      Sludgy, post-metal? You guys are reviewing this kind of music now…?

      How refreshing…hopefully you’ll start reviewing Tech metal/slam/wank-core/whatever-the-fuck too.

      With a a few exceptions, obviously, metal is in a seriously sorry state at the moment.

      Originality? Distinct sound? Ahhh bollocks to that…

      Most music subgenres sound more or less the same. There’s a billion thrash revival bands, even more death metal, and probably just as much power metal. And 90% of them sound the same.
      Quality control is impossible now that everyone can make music. Every genre has plenty of shite, some worse than others, but the goods are always a minority.

  • Drew Music

    If anyone needs some stoner doom that hits higher than a 1.5, the Khemmis/Spirit Adrift split that dropped today is pretty fuckin cool. SA have done the first truly awesome take on Man of Constant Sorrow since the good ole Soggy Bottom Boys in my opinion, and it’s just plain fact that the whole thing is worth every cent.

    • Drew Music

      Also, Ire Wolves have one fucking monster of a sludgefest NYP on Bandcamp, 110% worth throwing some money at even though they’re not asking for any. Kinda surprised I didn’t read about it here, but I’m sure it’ll be TYMHM when it’s time to compile the finer things of 2017 into a list that we’ll all argue about.

  • sir_c

    This music does require serious baking of some specialty cakes before the droning makes any sense. The music isn’t the best ever, but I think I understand how they got there.

    http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/41ad09c102fe9d38930f08f788c2eee6bda9a916a3927d318d3a6633a4f58a88.jpg

  • Bas

    For me the experience of this album was the opposite to GardenTale’s as I quite liked the instrumental tracks (I was not stoned when listening to it but I like psychedelica and spacy music) but the vocas kinds of ruined it for me in the other tracks (trying to combine space with Conan but not managing)… I woundnt say its bad.. but disappointing..