While we've covered hundreds of metal bands who incorporate horror and occult themes, it seems that the slow, deep and heavy riffs of doom metal are most often paired with lyrics involving witchcraft, secret rituals and summoning dark forces. This is largely due to the profound influence of Black Sabbath and the guitar style pioneered by Tony Iommi (to whom the entire genre owes a huge debt), but there's something about the creeping, down-tuned chords and drones that call to mind ancient rites and midnight conjurations. Joining the ranks of acclaimed doom bands like Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Candlemass and Cathedral, UK-based trio Witchsorrow first unleashed their own low rumble of satanic thunder back in 2010 with a well received self-titled album. Since then, they've carved their name in the upper echelons of the doom genre, recently signing to legendary label Metal Blade – who have now released the band's dark and mighty follow-up release, God Curse Us. Read on for a track-by-track review of the album, and take a listen to one of their doomiest songs ever...
Given their name and history, it's no surprise that Witchsorrow's earliest songs revolved around themes of witchcraft, demonology and the occult, but with this release, they've begun to use those concepts as a way of examining the human condition in general – and needless to say, the prognosis is less than hopeful (there's a good reason they call it “doom,” after all). Frontman Necroskull matches the deep drones of his guitar chords with a grim vocal style suited for arcane magick, letting riffs play out at a grim, death-march pace before breaking into a more urgent dark-rock groove, complete with slightly more aggressive vocals.
While they're still relatively small fish in a big pond, these cats don't think small, as you'll discover immediately in the mammoth opening track “Aurora Atra,” which casts a long shadow through a nearly seven-minute sequence of bottom-heavy, gritty riffs that only begins to pick up pace near the urgent finale, which includes an eerie guitar solo. The title track follows with a lush stoner-rock intro (major wah-wah here) before building energy to another satisfying crescendo, while the colossal dirge-like rhythms of “Masters of Nothing” takes more time to build to the same level of power, because the riff patterns are just so damn slow. After the nightmarish mood piece “Ab Antiquo,” which swirls with cryptic whisperings from beyond, come two of the album's best tracks: first is the literally apocalyptic “Megiddo,” the title of which calls to mind The Omen movies – if you recall, the “seven daggers of Megiddo” were the only weapons that could kill the otherwise indestructible Damien. This one contains the record's thickest, most monolithic riffage, building to an appropriately cinematic final act; it's then followed by the equally excellent “Breaking the Lore,” which of all the songs on God Curse Us strays most (though not too far) from the conventions of doom, accelerating and switching up tempos and employing some swift and powerful Sabbath-like hooks. After that, as if to remind you one last time how long it takes for most of these melodic themes to play out, the closing track “Den of Serpents” clocks in at over twelve minutes – but that's not to say it's a dull piece of work; on the contrary, it's actually one of the most complex and interesting on the album, provided you're not expecting to beat your feet to a a clockwork rhythm; this track's power comes instead from the mountainous weight of the chords, which Necroskull sustains to the vanishing point, leaning heavier on swirling and phasing effects before finally allowing the whole thing to collapse into a dense mass of feedback.
While God Curse Us doesn't break much new ground in the overall doom metal landscape, it's clear that Witchsorrow has a solid grip on the genre's strengths and plays them up to epic proportions. That big, dark, ritualistic sound is what doom is all about, and this album serves it up by the truckload. If you're impatient with the slow-burning chord progressions and funeral rhythms that are the earmarks of classic doom, this band won't change your mind; the hooks are plentiful, and many of them memorable, but they move in extreme slow-mo compared to even the thickest riffs of death/doom hybrids like Autopsy, and it sounds way too evil for the whole stoner-metal vibe of Electric Wizard and the like. But if you love to be overwhelmed by thick black clouds of ominous atmosphere while you curl up with the collected works of Aleister Crowley, then this disc is for you.
For a sample, check out the wicked “Megiddo” right here: