Stoner doom titans Electric Wizard have left an indelible mark on heavy music. 2000’s Dopethrone set the gold standard for massive distortion and bone-cracking bottom end. Dead Witches are the project of Electric Wizard’s founding drummer, Mark Greening, and the band aims to take doom metal into the realm of the occult with their debut, Ouija.
As one might expect from an album of this genre, Ouija gets underway with the sound of a rainstorm. Thick, distorted bass begins churning out an ominous riff, accompanied by eerie organs. Feedback and fuzz-drenched guitar joins in, and last to join is Greening on his kit. The intro is a short and effective sample of what is to come.
The songs themselves (there are only five here) will shake the dust off your speakers, even if you just use earbuds. The late Greg Elk, who passed away last October, makes use of a tone somewhere between molasses and molten lead – thick, ponderous, and as mentioned above, massively distorted. Despite the bottom end on Elk’s guitar, Carl Geary’s bass somehow finds room to make itself heard. The two combine for possibly the densest sound I’ve heard in ages.
Greening is perfectly happy to give the others their time to shine. For the most part his drums are thunderous yet muted. In fact, the whole album is kind of muted. I suspect there isn’t a frequency above 4kHz to be found here, and that’s kind of the point as it establishes an undeniable feel. Closing tracks “Mind Funeral” and “Sometimes Dead is Better” are so deafening my headphones were pushing air, even at low volume. Sweet!
Virginia Monti, from the band Psychedelic Witchcraft, is the singer, and herein is the only puzzling part of Ouija. I can’t tell if she’s a good singer or not, as her vocals are distorted throughout the entire album. It gets gimmicky after a while, because I suspect she could more than hold her own with a clean sound.
Aside from that, Ouija is an enjoyable but exhausting listen. The songs are heavy, loud, well written and played, with more bottom end than a Kardashian. Your ears will be throbbing for weeks after Dead Witches tear up your speakers. With the passing of Elk I don’t know if Dead Witches will carry on, but I hope they do. Ouija is rife with potential.
(released February 10, 2017 on Heavy Psych Sounds)