Seattle’s sludgy funeral doom dirge metal act, Bell Witch have been slogging it for 7 years. 2012 saw their debut, Longing, capture the doom metal scene with some force and 3 years later Four Phantoms furthered their name. Mirror Reaper is their third and newest opus. Their prior 2 albums each were about 65 minutes in length and Mirror Reaper is a whopping 83 goddamned minutes. To put this in perspective, listen to D.R.I.’S Dirty Rotten LP 5x in a row. The band is rounded out by Dylan Desmond on bass/vox and Jesse Shreibman on drums/organ/vox. Many fans out there and my buddy Graham Landers, from Deepsend Records tout this band as one of the most depressing musical duo of all time. I could not agree more, but for different reasons.
I do like doom/death metal and even dabbled with some straight doom metal bands. Of course the first 4 Candlemass albums are near and dear to me. True funeral dirge, sludgy doom can be a tough pill to swallow and can cause excessive nodding. And yep that is what Bell Witch does for me. The album is at least broken up into 2 discs. The first is “As Above” and second is “So Below”. The fact that there is no guitar means nothing. Dylan has a great bass guitar sound, which mimics, at times, as a guitar. Things really don’t get started until around 8 minutes in and why not, with an 83 minute long record, no need to rush things. The music is slower than slow. Not sure if you saw the movie Zootopia? It’s really a cute kids movie I saw with my kids and there is a scene at the DMV where the staff are sloths. It’s a funny scene when the main characters are trying to speak to them and everything is in slow motion. Bell Witch move slower than sloth’s. Once the vocals come in they are kind of deathly and then with a pain anguished, cavernous spoken word kind of mix to them. I would have liked the pace to pick up kind of like Hooded Menace, but they’re doom/death and this is funeral dirge. Therefore nothing ever gets faster than a snail’s pace. In fact there are times when it gets even slower. The second disc is more atmospheric, less metal and more ambient in nature. For me it’s a waste and rather pointless.
I will admit to really enjoying certain aspects of this album and I feel 83 minutes is more than overkill. It was depressing to me realizing how much time had passed, but with too much boring, dirge and parts sounding similar to a 20 minute prior section. Trimming the fat I would think 35-40 minutes is more than enough. When the band kicks into the metal aspect, although it’s beyond slow, it where some of the highlights seep in. I do like the spoken, ethereal vocal patterns and slower ambient, atmospheric moments, but for crissakes, at least 1/2 of this album is made up of that. Again…overkill. How does the band perform this music live without lulling themselves and the crowd to sleep? Maybe they do. I would imagine if you fucked up a live part no one would notice. Just trim the fat, dudes! The production is decent enough, and the mix is rather good. The true highlight is the Mirror Reaper album cover. Maybe my favorite album cover of 2017. It does speak to their music and I cannot heap enough praise on the album cover. Yes, I do not get the Bell Witch hype and maybe I never will. I do like certain aspects of this record, which I mentioned above, just not enough for me to go back to this again.
Score: 3 out of 10
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper Album Info
20th October 2017
For fans of:
Funeral doom/dirge metal