Friday 17 March 2023


We do not usually review "live" albums on The Psychlist, not because we do not like them (we love them) but because they are a snapshot in time that are often not indicative of where a band are currently at in their musical evolution and are usually filled with crowd favourites rather than brand new compositions. For Witchrot's "Live In The Hammer" (Fuzzed and Buzzed Records) Desert Psychlist has made an an exception, first because it was not recorded in front of a paying audience but on the floor of Boxcar Sound Hamilton, Ontario and second because, for us, the quality of execution to be found on these live recordings far exceeds that of the original versions.  

 The albums first track, "Druid 1//Crypt Reaper//Burn Me Down" is a medley made up of songs from the bands self-titled debut "Witchrot" and its follow up "Hollow" tied together with threads of dank, dark groove. The medley opens to the luscious strains of violin then is joined by crashing drums and thrumming bass and reverberating guitar riffs in what can only be described as a series of industrial strength doom grooves over which vocalist Lea Reto intones vocals that alternate between seductive and ethereal that occasionally switch to anguished as and when the music dictates. "Dug Your Grave/Strega"  follows, another medley this time a combination of two of the bands single releases, and if you thought the studio versions of these two songs were something special just wait until you hear the live versions, Reto making full use of the environment she finds herself singing in, using the acoustics of the room to make her voice sound so much fuller and larger while the band use those same spaces to bring to the table a speaker shredding rawness that those original versions just didn't quite posses. Two previously unreleased  tracks follow the first of which, "Acedia", is a short but dark instrumental that twins dank droning refrains with sparse ringing arpeggios to create an otherworldly dynamic. The second is " Who Scared You" a song that finds Reto flattening out her vocals on the verses to give things a slightly off-kilter feel, a feel mirrored in the bands musical attack which has a grungy off- centeredness. That off-centredness continues into "Colder Hands", the dissonant slurriness of the original "Hollow" version is here amplified ten-fold and taken to a whole new level while final number "Million Shattered Swords" progression from lilting ballad, backed by soaring violin, to soaring, yet deeply distorted, torch song is nothing but jaw-dropping.

For "Live in the Hammer" the line up of Lea Reto (vocals), Peter Turik (guiitar), Nick Kervin (drums) and Cam Alford (bass) are joined by guitarist Daniel DeKay (Exciter) and violinist/vocalist Laura C Bates (Völur) in a celebration of doom liable to summon the gnarliest demons hell has to offer. Dark, uncompromising, sinister, ethereal, loud and brash are all adjectives that could be used to describe the music Witchrot lay before us with their new album, but none of them quite capture or fit the sound these guys make together. Here is a music rooted in Sabbathian soil but grown so far away from that root that it no longer bears even a close resemblance, its doom sure enough but a gnarled, twisted insidious doom.
Check it out .... 

© 2023 Frazer Jones

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