Leviticus 20:27 tells us that, "A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones" (KJV). But what happens after the witches get stoned? They rock sweet heavy metal, that's what. Recorded about 100 miles away from witch-rich Salem, MA, Witch was conjured by J. Mascis and Dave Sweetapple of Dinosaur Jr. along with Asa Irons and Kyle Thomas of the Vermont-based Feathers (who also contributed to Devendra Banhart's Cripple Crow). That Feathers makes up half this band is funny, because they sound very, very different than Witch. Their weightless folk music is nearly the polar opposite to the classic heavy metal sound, a la Black Sabbath, of Witch.
The band comes complete with the dark fantasy styling that once made bands like Sabbath so controversial and repellant to culture at large. The lyrics abound with wizards, crystal balls, dark magic, and other elements of the black arts. It now seems impossible to pull this stuff off without any irony or self-awareness -- especially after Spinal Tap -- and Witch seems to take this pose half playfully and half in homage to the bands who first brewed the supernatural into Heavy Metal. The album's production manages to capture the essence of '70s heavy metal, with hazy, paranoid guitars, while adding in some modern day sonic flourishes. The result is an authentic sound that gives the impression of something both familiar and unique at the same time.
Witch also finds J. Mascis behind the drum kit, his first instrument, and, given his performance on the album, it appears that he is very happy to be back in that position. Though Mascis' drumming is tight, clean, and controlled, he hammers hard upon the skins, supplying equal amounts thunder to Irons' and Thomas' lightning. Some songs smolder at a mid-tempo drudge while others blaze with dual guitar solos. The one slight exception to the formula is the closing track, "Isadora," an ethereal and haunting acoustic ballad about longing and lost love that eventually launches into a pummeling outro. The songs are heavy and the riffs are catchy; any song on Witch is sure to make your head sway from fore to aft and your fist rise to the sky. Stoner rock jokes aside, Witch is a solid heavy metal album that is nearly as much fun to listen to as it probably was to record.
2. Soul of Fire
3. Black Saint
5. Rip Van Winkle
6. Hand of Glory