If you were to purchase Witchcryer‘s debut, Cry Witch and load it into your iTunes-type mp3 sorter thingamabob, you’d likely see it appear adjacent to NWoBHM legends Witchfnder General. That is no coincidence. This Texas doom rock troupe features members of Las Cruces, Earthen Grave and The Living Fields, but their style and sound is the result of extended listens to the classic platters of those ancient British witch wranglers. Led by the charismatic voice of Suzy Bravo, Witchcryer specialize in doom filtered through a rock prism, foregoing slow, funerary slogs for the upbeat, rowdy swing originally heard on Death Penalty and mid-period Black Sabbath albums like Never Say Die. This makes for a much more lively listen than you’d expect from a band labelled as doom, and in the hands of some seasoned musicians, it’s something pretty special. Originally self-released last year, Cry Witch is now receiving a proper label promotion and I’ll tell you upfront, it’s very well deserved.
When an album opens with a song that causes your jaw to hit the floor, two things happen. Your attention level jumps to 11. Next, your expectations for what’s to come goes through the goddamn roof. “Cry Witch” is such a song, and it will smack you upside the head with a cricket bat covered in Gorilla Glue®. It’s like the crown jewel of the Witchfinder General catalog with elements of Castle and Jex Thoth crammed in for extra gravitas. The simple, but rocktastic main riff is beefed up with thick gooey bass, and Ms. Bravo emotes all over the place, creating an instantly lovable doom rock monster. The interplay of the guitar and bass is as close to Iommi/Butler as you’ll find, and the whole enchilada smokes and seethes with dark, mystical energy suitable for the woods around Salem. The one-two punch of “The Preying Kind” and “Ma Kali” bear ominous, menacing undercurrents in their mid-tempo rumbles, but they’re still highly accessible and instantly likable.
“The Great Divide” joins “Cry Witch” as an album high point, with a fat, heavy swagger, and when the lead riff snakes out of the grave alongside a clunky, popping bass rumble, it’s doom metal magic with Ms. Bravo’s sultry, hell maiden vocals as the icing on the bloody coffin. Closer “Lapis Philosophorum” is another standout, and a beast of a completely different color, pairing Bravo with soft acoustic guitars and string instruments for a surprisingly beautiful and emotional switch up. The way the violin plays off the guitar offering alternate riffs reminds me of vintage Kansas, and Bravo outdoes herself with a graceful yet powerful vocal outing. impressive stuff!
This is a great sounding album with a rich, vibrant mix. The bass shudders and pops alongside the guitar and Bravo’s vocals lay over the top like a finely laced doily (ov evil). It’s also a very short album at 36 minutes, and this includes a cover of Witchfinder General‘s eponymous song. That means you only get just 32 minutes of original material from Witchcryer1, and after hearing this, you’ll definitely want more. Yes, I’m saying I wish this album was longer! What are you going to do about it? That being said, every song is a killer and the album is well-suited for blasting from start to finish, with repeats nearly mandatory.
I’m quite taken with Ms. Bravo’s performance, coming as she does out of nowhere. She has a strong seductive tone, but there’s a palpable air of danger just below the surface which really suits the material. As good as she is, it’s the way guitarist Jason Muxlow (The Living Fields, ex-Earthen Grave) and bassist Marilyn (ex-Las Cruces) mesh together so expertly that really puts the songs over the top and onto the next level. The Iommi/Butler comparison is not dropped lightly, but I’m dropping it and refusing to pick it up. This is a mega-tight duo with real chops and they should never, ever stop working together.
I love it when an unknown band drops the hammer on me without warning and Witchcryer did just that. I can’t stop spinning this thing and I suspect I won’t be alone in this for long. Good things await this band if they can maintain this level of quality writing, and aside from the paucity of material, there’s little to take issue with. Don’t burn the witch, the ways of Hell aren’t wrong this time.