Shadow Witch – Under the Shadow of a Witch Review

I often marvel at the diversity of the wondrous art form of metal music. Doom is no exception, flowering beyond the traditional Sabbathian foundations. Along with its various genre affiliates, it continues to impress in genre depth without deviating too far from slow and heavy pathways. New York’s Shadow Witch lean towards a hard-rocking, bluesy, riff-centric stoner doom template on their third album, Under the Shadow of a Witch. It’s pretty far removed from the gloomy, melancholy, and often emotionally intense forms of doom that can really get under the skin in a good kind of way. Instead, the tempos are lively, the riffs pack a punch, and the songs generally fall around the three-to-four-minute mark. The result is a palatable and feelgood heavy rock album, with stoner, doom, prog and classic metal influences seeping in. Yet does the songwriting substance match the band’s infectious energy?

Opener “Spearfinger” cuts loose and sets an upbeat platform to begin proceedings. Built upon boisterous rhythms and livewire stoner doom riffs, the song showcases the impressive vocals of frontman Early Lundy. Lundy’s forceful, bluesy holler offers soulful, melodic hooks and welcome grit. Furthermore, the man knows his way around a decent vocal hook. This aspect would mean little if there weren’t any decent musical ideas to play off. Thankfully the whole band acquit themselves well. From the robust heft and swagger of the rhythm section through to the thick, bluesy stoner doom riffs that anchor each song, courtesy of guitarist Jeremy H. Hall. There’s solid harmonies, technical flourishes and fiery solos providing neat embellishments.

The album chugs along with momentum and solid grooves, with Shadow Witch adept at playing to their strengths and keeping things relatively straightforward. “Wolf Among the Sheep” snarls and swaggers with a vaguely progressive, Mastodon-esque lurch. Strong riffs, an interesting arrangement, and impassioned vocals flesh out one of the album’s standouts. Song dynamics are kept interesting, with “Demon’s Hook” featuring an acoustic intro, killer guitar chops, and rollicking southern rock groove, while “Saint Magdalene” channels trad metal and classic doom. Closer “Fountain” breaks the trend of shorter song lengths and does so with generally engaging results, Clutch and Sabbath influences creeping into the song’s blend of southern rock, doom, and classic rock swagger.

Stripped down to a lean and mean 40 minutes, Under the Shadow of a Witch doesn’t overstay its welcome. The generally shorter-form doom songs work advantageously towards a punchy collection of raucous tunes, rocky, melodic, and chock full of groove. Sure there’s nothing overly original or remarkable on offer, but the songs are solidly written and enjoyable in the moment. However, despite the strong vocal performance and consistently solid writing, the overall quality falls elusively short of greater honors. A couple of generic, less remarkable tunes and hooks that are generally engaging in the moment but struggle to stick in the memory bank once the dust settles are nagging strikes against the album. Otherwise, there’s solid entertainment value to be found, while the chunky tones and dynamic production delivers plenty of sonic oomph and substance.

Shadow Witch were an unknown entity to me when I blindly claimed the promo, but have succeeded to impress with a no-frills, swaggering, catchy example of stoner doom meets bluesy heavy rock, played with heart, energy and old school values. Under the Shadow of a Witch doesn’t quite deliver a knockout blow but is a solid, energetic album worth checking out for fans of uptempo stoner doom and heavy rock.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Argonauta Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 14th, 2020

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