Friday, August 12, 2011

Swamp Witch - "Gnosis" (2011) [Gay Scientist Recordings]

I love death/doom metal, but I can definitely say the genre is in somewhat of a decline. I guess I agree with most of the haggard old doom fans who feel that the subgenre reached its height in the early to mid 90s with bands like My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost all releasing top-notch, romantic doom metal with thick guitars and mournful, growling voices that had otherwise been alien to the doom metal genre. From then on, while there have been good bands, it is hard to say that there's been any real innovation, as bands try more to emulate their musical heroes, whether it be on the dirtier more Autopsy or My Shameful side of things, or Anathema's transcendent, "pretty doom metal." Either way, though I love the style of music, it's sort of beginning to feel like I've been listening to the same handful of bands for a while. Just when I was about to start becoming a big ol' pile of hate, my good friend James R. sent me his band Swamp Witch's first release, and now I can excitedly proclaim, "Yeah, people are doing something different, cool!"

But what makes Swamp Witch cool? Well, this Oakland 4-piece "Occult/Funeral/Sludge" band has effectively taken the stale death/doom subgenre and almost completely re-imagined it. While still retaining the crushing, brooding heaviness, indicative of the genre, Gnosis's four songs take the listener on an adventure through psychedelic madness, echoing the greats The Flower Travellin' Band (RIP Joe Yamanaka :/ ) or the noisy chaos of the various Acid Mothers Temple projects. Pair that with the dirty, snotty irreverence of Danzig-era The Misfits and Swamp Witch has pretty much released a "good music party" on a cassette. Let's face it, you all like The Misfits, and if you don' still do. The three songs that comprise the A-side of this monstrous cassette are definitely a powerful revitalization of a genre that is normally based around piety towards the canonical bands, when it really doesn't have to be. It's heavy, it's fresh, and, for lack of a better word, trippy.

The B-side, which is a tape exclusive, lives in its own world. Yes, some dedicated fan "chopped 'n screwed" the entire A-side. At first, this 24-minute "remix" sounds like it would be a bit of a difficult listen, but after a few sessions myself, I must say it's actually pretty cool. This much more "progressive," intense take on the Gnosis sessions features pitch shifting, broken repetitions, beat re-imagination, and everyone's favorite SLOWWWWW DOWWNNNN. I'm sure there will be a few naysayers on this side, but having a full demo remix as a B-side was definitely a ballsy move on Swamp Witch's behalf. A fitting tribute to their favorite hip-hop and rap artists. "Haters gonna hate," but I really dig this side.

I truly enjoy every aspect of this tape, whether it be the raw, "rough around the edges" sound, the thick bottom end, the gurgling vocals, and even the awesome B-side. Yes, Swamp Witch's fresh take on death/doom has truly impressed me with their first release, and it definitely shows how much work and thought has gone into it. Swamp Witch has generously made the A-side of Gnosis available for free, which you can download from the band-sanctioned link here, or, if you're still unsure, scroll down and stream the same 3 tracks from their Soundcloud, though I, personally, would recommend purchasing the tape for $6 ppd here.

Doom on.


Gnosis by SwampWitch

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