Purple Hill Witch
Celestial Cemetary

Album number 2 from Norwegian, classic doom trio Purple Hill Witch does everything a sophomore album follow-up should do.  Their LP debut, a monstrously grooved Self-Titled on stalwart label The Church Within was an ode to the first 6 Sabbaths, the glory days of Hellhound Records (and Maryland doom in general) with a touch of early Electric Wizard added to round things out.  On Celestial Cemetary the band toys with rawer tones and galloping 70s metal tempos while still holding to the big, tumbling riffs, molten rhythms and reverb-drenched melodic vocals that made their debut such a pleasure to crank at dangerous volumes.  They don’t reinvent the wheel but they don’t need to.  They’ve got a good thing goin’ on.

“Ghouls in Leather” pairs an Earthy, ominous organ drone with a watery, distorted riff that’s eventually joined by a simplistic blues beat, vintage hard rock guitar leads and deep bass grooves.  As opposed to the thick, dense tones of the band’s prior release, the vibe here is stripped to the most bone dry essentials as it sports a cracking snare sound and equally arid guitar textures.  A nearly three minute wandering roam culminates in a quick speed burst, chunky old school doom thunder, howling clean vocals and slovenly pacing that gives way to a punk-y, ephedrine blasted rush with hoof pounding speed matching wits against manic guitar solos.  Some of the later riffing as well as the overall atmosphere possess a Witchfinder General vibe nailed down pat but run through the crustier, snot-nosed punk/thrash of Saviours.  It’s not nearly as overtly aggressive as the Cali smashers yet the feel is similar.  The crunchier, bone-grinding doom riffs of “Harbinger of Death” are well-measured and delivered from way back behind the body, like one of Tyson’s best swings with an ear-reaping bite tacked on for extra punch.  That almost regal, crown wearing groove of Cathedral’s Carnival Bizarre is all over this climbing, clandestine motherfucker of a song and they hit all of the bluesy bends and groove change-ups I was hoping to hear in my head while I listened.  Guitarist/vocalist Kristian Ingvaldsen has a clearer, more melodic range than Lee Dorrian and coupled to the production’s pared down squalor it may remind one of the English doom gods but Purple Hill Witch put more than enough of their own spin on things.  The riffs and rhythmic churns also switch frequently enough to keep things from becoming humdrum.

Sludgy and dense like a concrete bunker, the title track spews forth a slithering, snakelike riff that takes Vitus and stretches it out a bit more into 70s blues and proto-metal.  While starting akin to a potato sack race comprised of amputees, the pace ratchets up nicely thanks to some face slapping snare fills and speed surges as the riffing becomes nastier and more intense the further the song unfolds.  The fluid, well-inlaid bass lines propel the riffs forward with just enough oomph that make their hugest blues wind-ups result in full on widowmakers.  Speaking of Vitus, the lead riff to “Around the Universe” reckons of a wraparound take on the Reagers’ era classic “Trail of Pestilence” from the hugely underrated Die Healing.  Swerves to the chord progressions and a faster tempo give the idea of homage rather than scummy rip-off and as always Purple Hill Witch know their way around a groove’s every nook and cranny.  The tune’s last ¼ kicks into tire popping overdrive with thrashing riffage maintaining a groove kept aloft by stellar, walking bass playing that allows the shrieking, psychedelic guitar solo to launch itself into the skyhigh stratosphere.  The short n’ sweet “Menticide” is a low to the ground, greasy thrasher that when not chunking along in a Slayer on ‘ludes death rattle, sinks into quicksand blues grooves that unload a classic 4/4 through slimy, sleazy distortion.  Another standout guitar solo only hammers the point home harder.  One my personal favorites on the record, “The First Encounter” jackboot stomps its way through biker killin’, groovy doom-blues that goes into a Lemmy frenzy speed freakout with psychotic wah-wah guitar solos completely drenching the track’s endnote phrase.  Closer “Burnt Offering” pulls out all of the stops with easily the album’s loudest, most punishing riffs on display in a museum of oddities while the rhythms make granite seem feather light, a buckshot spray of psyched-out soloing shearing your soul into papermache as a harmonica goes bunkhouse fuckin’ nuts throughout the song’s insane, largely instrumental second half.

Celestial Cemetary is a goddamn fine slab of well-oiled throwback doom.  Every track has its strengths and I think the riffing, playing and even the scragglier production come together for an even tighter, more focused experience than the band’s Self-Titled bruiser.  The songwriting is also dirty and deadly with an emphasis on only the catchiest, slickest riffs and rhythms while the soloing/leadwork is altogether above and beyond Purple Hill Witch’s first record (it’s more cosmic and psyched-out which fits them well).  Anyone into the old school doom sound should certainly check this one out.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
April 10th, 2018

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