Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper (Profound Lore Records, 10 October 2017)
Today we’re going to talk — again — about Bell Witch. Since the release of their demo recording back in 2011, this bass+drums+vocals duo of doom has been delighting our auditory cortices with a combination of immense gravitas and lofty, haunting melodies. With the departure of drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra following sophomore album Four Phantoms, bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond soldiered on with a new partner in Jesse Shreibman.
As observed in our 2016 review of that 2015 double-LP, the tragic passing of friend and former bandmate Guerra devastated the members of Bell Witch — who, as it turns out, had just started working together on the first new material with their current line-up. As you might expect, this event would certainly have a strong effect on the writing process, the result of which became Mirror Reaper, revealed to the world last fall.
With these guys hitting the road TONIGHT for a month-long expedition all over North America (including stops at two different festivals this weekend), alongside fellow Pacific Northwesterners Yob, we’ll spend some time with Mirror Reaper, and then share that list of tour dates down below.
Engineered and mixed by Billy Anderson, augmented by extra vocals courtesy of Aerial Ruin‘s Erik Moggridge and a bit of organ provided by drummer Schreibman, the album contained within that striking Mariusz Lewandowski artwork consists of a single track that runs for a staggering eighty-three minutes.
With such an expansive timeframe, the musicians are given quite a lot of room to meditate, ruminate, and lucubrate; cogitate and deliberate; ponder, wonder, and wander; muse, mull, and brood; essentially, to explore the spectrum of emotion and to give voice to those internal feelings. And they definitely do all of that, and more, throughout the highly ambitious (some might say — and some have said — too ambitious) creation.
This prolonged piece hits all of the Bell Witch classics: beautifully harmonious bass chords and similarly consonant singing, contrasted with drawn-out heavier tones and riffs (and all the usual overtones and undertones supplemented by wavering organ notes lingering in the background) with unfathomably deep moans and groans, just barely stitched together with sparse drum and cymbal hits.
There is so much to be found here, it would be both unproductive and unattainable to try describing the whole thing. And to acknowledge the criticisms of the record’s detractors, yes it is almost absurdly lengthy, and the average person nowadays probably lacks the attention span to sit through a composition even one-tenth as long as this. Certainly one would not go into such an experience expecting to find oneself repeatedly humming poppy hooks afterwards — this is very serious, somewhat austere material, and naturally will not be everyone’s cup of tea.
But those willing to take the plunge may be surprised at how stirring and moving all of the sounds herein are. To pinpoint a particular example, the specific section that runs from 17:18 through about 20:00 evokes such beauty and wistfulness with nothing but a single plaintive bass part — but then as it continues from there through around 24:30, slower and even more minimal, the sheer sorrow brought forth out of such simplicity is nothing short of astounding. Subtle cymbal rolls lead the way into another vocal section which is gorgeous and emotive in its own way, but to be honest, those few minutes right around the one-quarter mark were probably single-handedly responsible for elevating this record to the number one slot in last year’s Top 17 list.
Pick up your own copy of Mirror Reaper right here.
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Bell Witch Summer 2018 Tour Dates
June 14 Oklahoma City OK – 89th Street
June 15 Austin TX – Austin Terror Fest
June 16 Little Rock AR – Mutants of the Monster
June 17 Memphis TN – Hi Tone
June 19 Birmingham AL – Saturn
June 20 Atlanta GA – The Earl
June 22 Orlando FL – SoundBar
June 23 Wilmington NC – Reggies
June 24 Asheville NC – Mothlight
June 25 Raleigh NC – King’s
June 27 Baltimore MD – Metro
June 28 New York NY – Le Poisson Rouge
June 29 Philadelphia PA – Underground Arts
June 30 Boston MA – Middle East
July 02 Montreal QC – La Sala Rosa
July 03 Ottawa ON – Mavericks
July 04 Toronto ON – Mod Club
July 06 Pittsburgh PA – The Rex Theatre (w/ Urns)
July 07 Detroit MI – El Club
July 08 Chicago IL – Reggies
July 09 Chicago IL – Reggies
July 10 St. Paul MN – Turf Club
July 11 Omaha NE – Lookout Lounge
July 12 Denver CO – Bluebird Theatre
July 13 Salt Lake City UT – Urban Lounge
July 14 Boise ID – Neurolux