Oct 132015

Bell WItch-Four Phantoms


(As many of our readers already know, NCS contributor Grant Skelton is a budding writer of dark fiction, and now, as he explains below, he has some great doomy music to accompany his creations as well as inspiring them.)

Doom. Indisputedly one of the most metal words in the English language. It’s a very simple, monosyllabic utterance. It has only four letters. But “doom” carries with it a subterranean labyrinth of macabre connotations. In the metal world, it conjures images of abandoned cemeteries, perverse religious iconography, shadowy horned monstrosities, and a scummy chalice of nihilism.

Doom metal is a genre I’ve really grown to love in the last year. This site has led me to discover doom bands whose music has become personal, and even sentimental to me. And now we’ve finally made it into the throes of autumn, a season where nature itself decays. And how beautiful is that decay! Continue reading »

Apr 212015


Just a couple of quick notes before I sign off for today:


I’ve already said my piece (here) about Four Phantoms, the new album by Seattle’s Bell Witch. In a nutshell:

Four Phantoms will dismantle your defenses, reduce your bulwarks against the bad days to a pool of molten slag, leave your vulnerabilities exposed, and touch those raw places you try to hide. How it can do this and yet leave you feeling transcendent is a wondrous mystery. Continue reading »

Mar 292015


Four Phantoms is unspeakably sad, an extended lament so vast and panoramic that it seems more like an expression of bereavement for the loss of an entire race than for that of an individual soul. Yet it is also sublime, as if Bell Witch had swum endless fathoms down beneath an ocean of grief, down to the pristine alabaster core of human loss resting in the blackness, and surfaced again to erect it like a monument, gleaming with cold light under a half moon.

You’ll have to forgive me for these flights of verbal grandiosity (there will be more to come). The music is the kind that carries your imagination away. It induces introspectiveness. Its emotional impact is profound. In my case, it makes me search hard for words that are grand enough to suit the music; I’m sure I’ll fail, but it’s too late for you to stop me from trying.

The music is slow, spare, and seemingly simple. There are probably more notes and beats in a few measures of tech-death frenzy than in an entire song on Four Phantoms — and of those four songs, two are more than 10 minutes in length and two last more than 22 minutes. But what Bell Witch do with their seemingly simple tools is to build something exalted, yet with a weight that’s almost too much to bear. Continue reading »

Mar 262015


I’ve finally reached what should be the last day of the project for my fucking day job that has kept me away from home for the last month and severely interfered with the all-important task of spilling my guts about metal on this site. I really can’t wait to get home.

I have a ton of new music to catch up on, but I probably won’t immediately dive back into blogging for a day or two since I also have about a thousand hours of sleep to catch up on, assuming my wife still recognizes me and will let me in the house.

I had a bit of free time this morning, so I pulled together this small round-up of music that grabbed me by the throat as I made a quick dash through the interhole looking for new songs.


I’ve been anxiously awaiting the time when a first advance track would emerge from Four Phantoms, the new album by Seattle’s Bell Witch, and it happened yesterday. The song is “Judgement, In Fire: I — Garden (Of Blooming Ash)”, the second of the album’s four long tracks (and at 10 minutes, it’s the shortest one). Here’s the complete track list: Continue reading »

Mar 232015

(BadWolf brings us this review of a live performance in Seattle by Enslaved, YOB, Ecstatic Vision, and Bell Witch, with photos by Madison Leiren.)

My Wednesday evening at El Corazon on March the 11th was, in many ways, a redemption shot. I was there to see local Seattle funeral doom merchants Bell Witch, as well as Philadelphia’s uncategorizable Ecstatic Vision, Eugene Oregon’s doom wunderkinds YOB, and Norway’s progressive black metal institution Enslaved.

To begin, here is my list of grievances to be resolved that evening:

First, grievances with myself: Continue reading »

Feb 092015


I’m so glad to be back home after three weeks in the bush, by which I mean Delaware. Finally, to sleep in my own bed, in which I woke up once an hour beginning about 2 a.m. and whined, because the time zone change is fuckin’ with me.  In other words, I slept like a baby. But it really is good to be home — although it appears I’m going to have to do this extended travel thing all over again in three weeks, which blows. But I’ll bitch about that more thoroughly when the time comes. For now, let’s discuss happier subjects….


This first item of news really cheered me right up — the marriage between one of my own most fervently anticipated releases of 2015 and one of my favorite artists. As you can see above (and click that image to enlarge it), maestro Paolo Girardi has created the painted cover art for the new album by Seattle’s Bell WitchFour Phantoms. It is beautiful, and I have no doubt that Four Phantoms will also be beautiful, in the way that the pale, cold skin of a bewitching corpse is beautiful. Continue reading »

Oct 282014


While wading through the interhole yesterday I discovered quite a few gems floating shining like tiny beacons of light in the ever-present fecal flow. To avoid over-taxing your attenuated attention spans I’ve divided this collection of nuggets into two posts, this being the first.


Psycroptic and Prosthetic Records announced their union yesterday. Prosthetic will be released the band’s new self-titled album worldwide next spring (EVP Recordings will be handling the release in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan). And once again we can begin scratching our heads about the decision of a band with a full and widely admired discography to self-title an album. What do that mean?

Although next spring is very far away, yesterday’s announcement also included the news that on November 4 the band will release a digital single from the new album, a song named “Echoes To Come”. And there’s a teaser of music from this single as well — which you can hear right here (all 19 seconds of it): Continue reading »

Nov 112012

Last night, November 10, 2012, a couple of friends and I ventured out in a butt-freezing Seattle night to catch the live performances of Profound Lore stable-mates Mitochondrion, Loss, Worm Ouroboros, and Bell Witch at The Highline bar. This was the second stop on a West Coast tour by Loss and Worm Ouroboros that will have different bands sharing the stage with them as the tour progresses.

Before leaving home I spent an hour finally studying the user manual for my hot-shit digital camera in an attempt to improve the quality of my live-show photos. I even typed up a cheat sheet about various settings that seemed like they would be useful, because the shit was so complicated that I knew I’d never remember it. And then I left home without the cheat sheet — and I was 100% right: I couldn’t hardly remember any of it. But I took pics anyway, and the best of a sorry lot are in this post.

I met my friends at a Vietnamese restaurant before the show. I’ll call her S and him O. O is a metalhead and a vocalist who’s working on a new DIY album. He has eclectic tastes and a preference for physical formats; his latest purchases are CDs by Inquisition, Kreator, and Sargeist. S listens to some metal, but she’s not really into the head-wrecking stuff. I think Worm Ouroboros was the main draw for her last night.

I’d never had Vietnamese food before. I followed their lead, except ordering twice as much food as they did because I wanted to explore. It was damned good, and I ate most of it. With my fucked-up ankle and a bloated belly, I tried to convince O to carry me on his back for the two-block walk to The Highline, y’know, as a test of friendship. He passed the test, merely chuckling instead of telling me to go fuck myself. Continue reading »

Oct 072012

So much of the metal I listen to is so fast and furious that when I dived into Longing, the debut album by Seattle’s Bell Witch, I felt like a sprinter who’d been dropped in his tracks, as if the gravitational pull of the Earth had suddenly been quintupled. The pace of this tremendously heavy music is far slower than the beat of a human heart, yet a heart beats within it, as the songs push and pull between the sounds of devastation and salvation.

Longing is an apt title for this album. Its six atmospheric tracks create an uncanny ambience of loss and despair, a sense of isolation and depressive wistfulness, and often the feeling of unavoidable catastrophe and even horror. Yet the dark and brutal hopelessness of the songs is offset by slow, beautiful melodies — not cheerful ones, mind you, but profound expressions of melancholy.

The music is amazingly simple and spare. The only instruments employed by the Bell Witch duo of Dylan Desmond and Adrian Guerra are bass and drums (respectively), and their voices. I assume the bass is a six-string instrument, because those aching melodies are often carried by notes that climb up the register, often free of the massive distortion that surrounds the cave-in chords at the bottom of every song.

Two of the tracks — and they are the shortest ones — consist of no instruments but the bass, and no vocals. In “Beneath the Mask”, slow, reverberating notes and chords provide grim accompaniment for a sample from the Roger Corman 1964 horror classic Masque of the Red Death, in which the Satan-worshipper Prince Prospero discovers the identity of the Man in Red. The final track, “Outro”, is simply a bass solo — ponderous, booming, yet still woven with bleak melody. Continue reading »

Sep 122012

I spent almost all last night writing an album review that isn’t even intended for publication on this site. More about that eventually. But the point for now is that I didn’t have time to finish other projects that were intended for appearance here this morning. Rest assured, they’ll be coming. But for now, I just want to quickly throw you two songs. Figuratively speaking, it’s like throwing you a couple of house-sized granite boulders. Catch!

The first is a lyric video for “Evoken Vulgarity”, which is a song from Effigies of Evil, which is a stupendous album from Finland’s Hooded Menace, which was officially released yesterday, which I’m still hell-bent on reviewing . . . some day. If you wanted to explain to someone how a song could be both horrifying and beautiful, this would be a good example to give them. Though beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

And in my eye, not only is the song beautiful, but so is the album cover. Click on the image above to see an even bigger, more awesome picture of the art.

The second song is “Bails (Of Flesh)”. It’s by a two-man Seattle band named Bell Witch, and it’s from their debut album Longing, which Profound Lore will be releasing on November 13. “Bails (Of Flesh)” is over 20 minutes long. Yesterday, Profound Lore began streaming the first 11+ minutes of the song. I don’t know about you, but if I’m ready to hear a song that’s 11 minutes long, and it’s as great as this one is, I’d be ready for all 20 minutes of it. So although I’m grateful to hear half of it, I’m also pissed I don’t get to hear the rest. Okay, “pissed” might be a little strong. More like hungry for more . . .

because the song is both horrifying and beautiful. Wait a minute, I said that already. So I’ll say this: it’s both soul-sucking and soulful. Also, devastating. And the Bell Witch album cover (by Bryan Proteau) is also cool. Continue reading »