|Excellent cover artwork by Nate Burns.|
"Sky Knight" gets the pupils dilating, it gets the heart rate up and makes the palms sweat. It does this with a heavy riff that's as much "finesse" as chopping a piece of wood, with an unabashedly catchy stop-start pulse from drummer Nathan. This song was made for headbangin', pure and simple. The stop-start sensibility allows the song to be a constant builder, the band upping the excitement level with each pass before the song dissipates in a cosmic swamp of doom. The first half of the song is like a flexed muscle which in the end, relaxes or relinquishes. Or better yet, the song is like a body sinking in quicksand which ultimately ceases its struggling.
It's also kind of rare to get that full-on Black Sabbath vibe, but Earth Witch pulls it off on "Lunar". It should come as no shock as the only description the band uses on its bandcamp page consists of two words: "Sabbath worship". Still, it's a joy to hear. Mournful vocals and a monolithic, descending riff give way to a descending scale and lead in double time conjuring the ghost of Sabbath but also of a more recent band like Moon Curse, Set or Destroyer of Light. The song then takes an abrupt turn with a cold and lonely vibe worthy of the song's title. The band does an excellent job of conveying that lunar feeling of absurd cold and bizarre isolation. Ivan's vocals are mostly clean and straightforward on this one, but he's given to raunch them out every now and then on the record as a whole.
By now a pattern emerges and a formula is established of a heavy band with one eye on extreme catchiness and the other on crumpling heaviness. In the first two songs the band doesn't often bother to try to meld the two styles, they simply give you one and then the other. The final three tracks are shorter with abbreviated instrumental sections. While the first two tracks roam beyond the 7 minute border with a slower, more instrumentally focused second half, the final three songs keep things moving with only the closing track wandering past the 4 minute mark. "Aggregate" and "Wizard's Cloak" follow a bit of that one-song formula when taken together, the catchier "Aggregate" leading into the slower, sludgier "Wizard's Cloak".
I honestly can't understand why this band only has some 200 "likes" on facebook, or why nobody has bought 'Earthbound' on bandcamp this year (as of this writing, my purchase is the most recent one and that came in December). I'm somewhat to blame perhaps, for not getting this review out sooner, but really, this is a mystery to me. Maybe it's the generic band name, or the cover art which, though amazing in its own right, may convey more of a black metal image, sending the wrong message, or maybe it's that they're from middle-of-nowhere Illinois and not from middle-of-nowhere Norway, I don't know. What I do know is this is one of the best bandcamp albums I've heard in a long time and it reminds me of the kinds of albums I was finding when I was new to doom, the life-changing ones that made me a fan of the genre for life and lit a fire under my ass to start this blog, albums such as Moon Curse's and Destroyer of Light's self-titled debuts and Set's 'Sacred Moon Cult' E.P. in particular. I would recommend this five-song E.P. to any fan of the genre, I don't want this band to be my little secret any longer.
Highlights include: "Lunar" and "Sky Knight"
Total Run Time: 27:23
Genre: Doom, Sludge
Reminds me of: Destroyer of Light, Moon Curse, Set
Release Date: October 15, 2013
Earth Witch on facebook