The Arizona desert might not be a place you would readily associate with music of a doomic nature, you are more likely to envisage grooves with a more expansive, lysergic leaning coming from a place with very little in the way of gothic structures or sacrificial altars. However if you think about it the desert is a place teeming with "doom", a place where the nasties actually DO come out at night!
Arizona, and specifically Phoenix, is the home of Stone Witch a four piece combo consisting of Jayare Robbins (vocals, guitar), Matt Wentz (lead guitar), Jason Colbert (drums) and Ian Colbert - (bass) , four guys who understand that if you look hard enough you can find "doom" even in the most unlikely places, something they prove to great effect with their latest release "Desert Oracle".
Ok our intro to this review may lead you into expecting something leaning towards the more traditional end of the doom spectrum and although their are aspects of traditional doom to be found among the grooves of Stone Witch's "Desert Oracle" the real meat and potatoes of the bands sound comes from them jamming a more proto-doom dynamic, a dynamic that although informed by the likes of Black Sabbath and Pentagram still owes a huge debt to the desert climate it was birthed in.
"Desert Oracle" begins its journey with "Curse" a song that opens with, of all things, a drum solo before segueing into a low slow groove built around a droning bass and guitar riff driven by big pounding percussion over which clean melodic and mellow vocals tell their tales, tales further enhanced by injections of searing lead guitar work. The band follow this up with "Void of Form" a swaggering, chugging tome with a strong Sabbathesque bias replete with Iommi-like guitar colouring, It has to be said that up to this point a certain amount of muddiness slightly marred Desert Psychlist's enjoyment of the two previous tracks but for whatever reason that muddiness falls away by the time we get to the excellent "Wizard's Smoke" , a song that will have fans of Egypt's "Valley of The Kings" running to dig their battered copies out of mothballs, and is replaced with a sharper, cleaner sound that really enhances the song and for that matter the rest of the albums impact. "The Ark" lifts its head above the dunes next and rides into town on a head nodding inducing mid tempo groove around which is weaved a deliciously delightful vocal melody. Proto-doom has always had, at its core, an element of the blues and next track "Shadow" has more than its fair share of bluesy inflections and flavours entwined within its doomic grooves, not only its swirling guitar solo's but also in its strident vocal melody. "White Eye" taps into those more traditional doom aspects of their sound mentioned earlier while "Dutchman" finds the band showing whatever they can do electrically they are more than adapt at doing acoustically too. For "Hollow Earth" the band don their stoner hats and dial the fuzz to devastation levels before closing out with "Pillar of the Colossus" a moody slow burner chock full of atmospheric twists and turns.
Those masters of the proto-doomic groove Egypt sadly packed up their runes and called it a day in 2018 and although they can never be replaced if there was ever a band who could partly fill that huge hole left in our hearts by those Fargo doomonauts then Desert Psychlist would put our money on it being Arizona's Stone Witch,
Check 'em out …..