Cryptic Witch (not to be confused with German instrumental stoner outfit Crypt Witch) have been on Desert Psychlist's radar ever since hearing their 2022 release "Demos: Live From Studio 3" in the April of the same year, the band then released a couple of tantalising singles on Bandcamp but to our dismay there was no mention of a forthcoming "official" album. A few days ago, and with hardly any fanfare, that album finally did materialise and, despite containing all but one of the songs that appeared on the bands demo release, it is, to use an old English superlative, an absolute corker. So without further ado let us welcome you to the " Summoning".
One look at this album's artwork will tell you that this is not a collection of tunes with jangly chiming guitar tones decorated with lyrics bemoaning an unrequited love, no the artwork gracing "Summoning" promises dark dank RIFFS, and what the artwork promises is exactly what Cryptic Witch deliver. The band, Tommy Murello (guitar/vocals); Eli Klopotek (bass/vocals) and Conor Amanatullah (drums), have put together an album that compliments its occult themed artwork with music very much in the same vein, a dark, dank music oozing atmosphere and not a little menace. That atmosphere and menace no more makes its presence felt than on opening number/title track "Summoning", Klopotek's bass working in tandem with Amanatullah's drums to create a groove that if it were any meatier would come served on a plate with Murello supplying the guitar parts, which are a mix of low crunching riffs and soaring blues tinted solos. The guitarist also doubles up on lead vocals which are filtered through a distortion pedal to give them the feel of being sung through a loudspeaker/megaphone, a trick originally employed to counter Murello's lack of self confidence behind a microphone but one that has ultimately given the band an edge they might well have lacked had those vocals been delivered straight and unadorned. Up next is "Spacewalk" an instrumental mix of heavy psych an low slung proto flavoured doom into which Murello slings a series of guitar solo's each distinctly different from one another in both tone and execution. Next up is the song from which the band took their name, "Cryptic Witch" is yet another vocal free opus only this time with an almost industrial backbeat, that is up until just over the halfway mark when Amanatullah breaks into a drum pattern reminiscent of Issac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft" and the song flies to its close on a fractured heavy stoner groove. "Domina Mortis" is the albums third instrumental in a row, well we say instrumental as there are the occasional guttural oooh's and aaah's , either way this is a song that dooms and dooms HARD! The vocals return for "White Horse" and once again they are delivered disembodied and distorted, for this particular number Cryptic Witch look to the roots of doom for inspiration and when we say roots of doom of course we mean Black Sabbath, not so much musically but more in the feel of the piece. Penultimate track "Green Sun" finds Cryptic Witch scratching their Kyuss itch, and scratching it quite impressively, while final number, "Eclipse", sees the band stretching out on another instrumental, this one though boasting a plethora of scintillating curve ball moments where the band seem to be throwing caution to the wind and just letting the music dictate its own path.
"Summoning" is a stunning album in all its aspects, its instrumentals are not just riffs and solos they have texture. depth and colour, it's vocalised numbers, although heavily filtered, are ear catching and melodic and its overall groove is an enthralling blend of heavily psyched up doom and swaggering old school desert rock, in fact there is not a lot not to like about this little diamond in the rough.
Check it out .....
© 2023 Frazer Jones