Witches of Doom – Funeral Radio Review

Pulling off the whole “gothic-doom-stoner metal” thing is no easy task. You need just the right blend of mood, meat and mist, and not every band is up to that kind of high level jiggery-pokery. Italy’s Witches of Doom have been lurking around the genre since 2014 with 2 full-lengths to their name, but third outing Funeral Radio is my first encounter with them. Their interesting cover art gleamed amid the fetid effluvium of the promo sump, and a brief sampling suggested something like a Danzig meets Alice in Chains grave cocktail. Well, there are definitely nods to the stark riffing of the classic Danzig albums, but this thing is a weird amalgam of desert rock, tripped out 70s psychedelia and the most excessive electronica of White and/or Rob Zombie. It’s an unpolished and sometimes unhinged mess of an album, but it’s not without a dark, lunatic charm, and when the band gets it right they can really get the gravestones rocking.

My selection of the promo was due to the strength of lead cut “Master of Depression,” which is essentially an Alice in Chains song with Danzig riffs driving it forward as Rob Zombie tweaks himself and the sound board in uncomfortable ways. The combination works well and it’s a fun little rocker with a lot of character, now destined for my summer beer drinking and hell raising playlist. Things rapidly change shape from there however, making it a challenge to get a handle on the album. “Coma Moonlight” is straight up stoner rock with overwrought vocals, but its simplistic, groovy riffs make it palatable. “Queen of Suburbia” sounds like a lost song from The Cult’s “Fire Woman” days, with Danilo Piludu adopting many characteristics of Ian Astbury’s vocal delivery. As a shameless fan of The Cult, I am honor bound to dig this, and I do. Closer “Hotel Paranoia” also hits the mark, borrowing a lot of Monster Magnet’s mushroom-heavy biker groove and attitude for a rowdy trip, though at 7:28 it takes way too long to arrive at its sketchy destination.

And there are other issues at this radio station that partially derail the good times express. The band’s vision sometimes gets as cloudy as a Cheech and Chong movie, and some songs just get too wild and woolly. The title track tries for a kind of country-western meets desert rock vibe that doesn’t really come together, and “Ghost Train” sounds like a discount version of Faith No More’s “RV” mixed with third-rate Monster Magnet and Clutch ideas. These cuts are just too awkward to ever really hit the ground, though they do hold your interest in a kind of bemused, WTF am I listening to? kind of way. Worst of all is the mishmash potluck found on “November Flames” where harsh vocals and jangled electronica compete with stoner riffs in a haphazard, cluttered way. It’s more grating than interesting, though the chorus is good enough to almost save the song. Almost. Ultimately there’s the skeleton of a good stoner rock album here, and it starts and ends well, but the muddled middle is a big downer.

I give full points to Frederico Venditti for some interesting and imaginative guitar work. He borrows from a lot of established acts, throws everything in a blender and comes up with some interesting new flavors. Danilo Piludu does a respectable job on vocals and manages to reinvent himself from song to song. He’s definitely a versatile frontman, but he does tend to overdue things sometimes, as on “Coma Moonlight” where less would be much more. The same can be said for the keyboards from Graziano Corrado, which are often too jarring, distracting from the surrounding music rather than aiding it. There’s a rough charm to the much of the material, but there are crude, amateurish elements that need to get ironed out before they take the next step forward.

Witches of Doom are a band capable of delivering a fun dose of stoner rock, and in truth, much of Funeral Radio is just that. They just need some maturation and a more refined vision of what they want to sound like. Hardcore fans of stoner rock should enjoy this, and I almost kicked it up a half point, but the flaws ultimately dragged it downward. I do hope to run into these ghouls again someday though. They’re an interesting crew with a few screws loose.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: My Kingdom Music
Websites: witchesofdoomband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/witchesofdoom
Releases Worldwide: April 3rd, 2020

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