BELL WITCH

Funeral Doom Metal • United States
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Bell Witch are a two person doom metal band from Seattle, Washington. They usually operate within the funeral doom sub-genre. The band is noted for not using guitars, only bass.

Co-founding member Adrian Guerra left the band in 2015 and subsequently passed away in 2016.
Thanks to Wilytank for the addition and UMUR, 666sharon666, MorniumGoatahl for the updates

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Four PhantomsFour Phantoms
Profound Lore 2015
$15.98
$74.89 (used)
Mirror ReaperMirror Reaper
Profound Lore 2017
$10.55
$13.31 (used)
LongingLonging
Profound Lore 2012
$11.98
$16.11 (used)
Demo 2011Demo 2011
The Flenser 2015
$19.77
$21.66 (used)
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BELL WITCH Discography

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BELL WITCH Longing album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Longing
Funeral Doom Metal 2012
BELL WITCH Four Phantoms album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Four Phantoms
Funeral Doom Metal 2015
BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper album cover 3.86 | 8 ratings
Mirror Reaper
Funeral Doom Metal 2017

BELL WITCH EPs & splits

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BELL WITCH Bell Witch album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Bell Witch
Funeral Doom Metal 2011

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BELL WITCH movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

BELL WITCH Reviews

BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper

Album · 2017 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
MorniumGoatahl
Back in October this year metal fans from all around boarded the hype train for the third full-length album by funeral doom metal act Bell Witch. Entitled Mirror Reaper, I'd personally been aware of the band but never checked them out. Unless you're the type that lives under a rock though it would have been hard to miss that most who were talking about this album seem to think it is a pretty big deal.

My question to them is a simple one. Why?

First a bit of history. Bell Witch is a duo that doesn't use guitars and is instead driven by bass and drums. That's not unheard of but is still atypical in today's metal and heavy rock climate. So that's a point in their favour to make them more interesting than the average funeral doom metal band. They also suffered a tragedy since their last album Four Phantoms was released in 2015 – one of their original founders, who had already left the band at that point, Adrian Guerra, suddenly passed away. I'm not one to speak ill of the dead, but it's no secret in the music industry that death does wonders for one's career and for better or worse Guerra's passing may have played a role in the amount of attention this album has gotten to date, which appears to be considerable more than the aforementioned Four Phantoms.

But enough about that. The music. And back to my question: why?

Why when Mirror Reaper is, in a word, boring. Composed of just one song that lasts for, wait for it, a whole 83:43 minutes, Bell Witch made a record that couldn't even fit on a regular CD album without being forced to snip the track into two parts and two discs. To some, especially listeners of the digital, uncut version, this may not seem like it's a big deal, it's actually the most obvious example of the problem with the entire album/track. The band's unwillingness to cut it down rather than drag it out until it's long outstayed its welcome. Picture this: a few minutes less on a composition of this length isn't going to make any meaningful difference, so why butcher it for those who (I assume) enjoy it and want a physical copy, by making it that few minutes too long to fit on a single disc? Surely that's a more agreeable sacrifice that enforcing a pause during a song, something I personally despise doing regardless of length. Or perhaps that is Bell Witch's way of admitting that they know they dragged this out for far too long any way and may as well offer an ideal place for listeners to go away and have a tea break.

And 'dragged out' is really the only way to describe Mirror Reaper. The long song length itself it's the issue but it's what they do with it. Funeral doom metal is not a lively genre by default but this is ridiculous. The song is long and it doesn't sound as if they really do much during its running time. There's slow and then there's slow and not actually getting anywhere. This is the latter. Fuck, if they were much slower they'd be playing in reverse. For a lot of the time the music on the album is not even metal, but rather slowcore (an indie rock sub-genre), which is basically just droning clean tone bass guitars, organ and bland clean singing. The actual metal parts are not much better. The band shows off a nice heavy sound and the growling vocals are more convincingly performed, but it's still got the same problem of dragging the band's ideas out too much until they become uninteresting and then some, before they eventually deign to change the song up again. This is the pattern that is basically on repeat for the whole duration.

It's funeral doom metal and to complain that a band releases a dirge seems to be missing the point, but this one seems to be an example of taking things way too far. I'm not sure that cutting Mirror Reaper down even by half its current length would have saved it, but the point is I reckon that Bell Witch could easily have covered every actual musical idea in this song in a ten to fifteen minute track and here's a radical thought: written some more songs to make up the rest of the album! We may have had a release worthy of the hype then.

If its meant to be about atmosphere then I for one admit that I do not get it, because Mirror Reaper as an album and song bores me out of my tree long before it's even a quarter of the way through. I've made myself sit through it a few times to try and get it, but I'm failing to see what this is having such a widespread appeal in the metal world. It's not exciting or even technically interesting. It's certainly not innovative. If guitarless bass driven bands interest you then there are much better examples out there than this, both within the doom metal genre and without. It's just an album that takes a few ideas and runs each of them into the ground and is memorable only in the way that an experience that scars you for life is memorable.

And yet somehow Mirror Reaper has quickly become one of if not the most highly talked about and regarded doom metal albums of 2017. If this is what counts as good in doom metal these days then I have to declare the genre dead. And so one final time, though no one is likely to say anything that is going to change my opinion at this point, my question:

WHY?

BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper

Album · 2017 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
A composition of a scale that was really only commercially possible in the digital age - physical releases are forced to split it up in various different ways - Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper is to funeral doom metal what Sleep's Dopesmoker is to stoner doom - a massive, sprawling exploration of the genre's basic principles cranked up to 11 and taken to their uttermost limit.

In this case, Bell Witch here offer a vision of funeral doom which takes it about as far as its death-doom-influenced roots as it can get; rather than fat, sick riffs, we are treated to sparse, gothic guitar tones and maudlin, melancholy lyrics. I hadn't heard that it was a tribute to Adrian Guerra, their deceased fellow bandmate, but it is certainly both suitable as a musical monument to a friend and as a distinct piece of art in its own right. Bell Witch take us here on a subdued, slow journey through their personal vale of tears, their grief overshadowing all, and what they have produced may not be the most heavy or extreme metal piece ever - it's almost a guitar-based approach to ambient music at points - but it is a powerful release which, whilst I'd want to be in the correct emotional mood to fully appreciate it, I am extremely glad to own.

BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper

Album · 2017 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
US funeral doom metal duo had released just two full-length albums, Longing (2012) and Four Phantoms (2015), when their line-up was split in two following drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra's departure. Bands change line-up all the time but this change was tragically made all the more profound when a year later, in 2016, Adrian Guerra passed away. Mirror Reaper (2017) is the group's, which now consists of Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and new member Jesse Shreibman (drums, vocals), first new recording since then. The monolithic, eighty-three minute long single song album can be seen as a eulogy to their fallen comrade, whose presence is still felt by the insertion of some vocals recorded before his untimely death at the age of just 35, credited under 'the words of the dead'.

Because Mirror Reaper is so long, physical versions of it have to split the song into multiple parts. The CD version has two discs with the track split into two (titled As Above and So Below) while the vinyl is also a double, with the track split into four parts. It's worth pointing out at this point that at least in the case of the CD version the physical pressing does NOT come with a download code so buyers can also obtain the full uninterrupted version of the album. Without confirmation, I'd assume that the vinyl is the same. This, while I won't allow it to affect my rating in this review, is a considerable omission to make in my view, making Mirror Reaper one of the extremely rare cases where the physical version can be deemed inferior to the digital (more so because the digipak packaging is one of the most shoddily made I've ever encountered).

In any form Mirror Reaper is a daunting journey, one that I'm certain most potential listeners will want to think hard about whether they even want to try taking it. Those that do will definitely need to find themselves in the right frame of mind, and set aside enough time to take the whole composition in during a single sitting regardless of whether you're listening to the seamless digital version or the four part vinyl version. A piece like this loses its impact if you decide to take a break of any length and while at least in the case of the CD version the split between the As Above part and the So Below part does make sense, So Below doesn't work near so well as a stand alone track.

Funeral doom metal is known for its plodding pace and atmosphere of misery and that's exactly what is delivered on Mirror Reaper, via some quite extended length non-metal sections, especially during the So Below part of the song. No idea is treated like a flash in the pan thing, but is drawn out for ages. The vocals range from growling to hypnotic chant to subdued singing. Despite the growls, there's no forays into actual death-doom like the works of Evoken or Esoteric, so it's pretty much a dirge from start to finish. In that sense, Mirror Reaper may just be an example of funeral doom metal at its most pure, though since there are no guitars and it's all done on bass the sound is a little difference to the average band. At least it's a pure funeral doom metal sound until one of the non-metal passages hits, then it's something else, yet still very much funeral and very much doom, just without the metal.

Mirror Reaper is not, understandably, an easy album. I expect that many who give it a go will find it to be too much in one way or another. To many, this will be far too long than any one song has a right to be. For others the length in itself won't be an issue but the snail's pace tempo will be. For more still it will be how it actually sounds. Mirror Reaper is certainly a dreary affair, even depressing at times, but that's hardly surprising given the genre and backstory and the death of Adrian Guerra. It's true that the point, musically speaking, could likely be accomplished in a much shorter yet still lengthy composition and that to some ears it may have been better for it. Those people will be entitled to their opinion, while I will remain steadfast in mine that they just don't get it. All things considered it seems highly appropriate that Bell Witch went all out with Mirror Reaper and produced something that will stand tall as a monumental work of what funeral doom metal is all about. This is their tribute to their fallen bandmate and it's certainly not found wanting. Even being so long there's definitely a coherence to the whole composition so that despite all the pitfalls it could fall into it never actually feels aimless.

Mirror Reaper will not go down as an album that will grace my speakers with any kind of regularity, but it's one I'm pleased to have taken the plunge on for when the mood strikes. Bell Witch have crafted a quality, well thought out work here.

BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper

Album · 2017 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
renkls
When a group of artists intrinsically tie a personal tragedy to the creation of their art, it becomes an inseparable aspect within it. Such has clearly been imbued in the creation of Bell Witch's massive, emotionally crushing third full length outing, Mirror Reaper. Envisioned as one continuous, 83-minute composition, spanning two disks on CD, 2 double sided LPs or seamlessly in digital format, Bell Witch have created a monumental, sombre eulogy to their ex-drummer and vocalist Adrian Guerra.

Glacial in pace, yet extreme in scope, Bell Witch craft introspective bass lines which ring out with the sense of grief. Traversing the length and breadth of what's on offer, the composition offers peaks and valleys, near silent moments ringing with the subtle, yet unmistakable musings of an organ - to massive soundscapes of crushing emotional weight.

It is hard to overstate the diversity of the primarily two-man drum and bass guitar band, forcing out your feelings with every twist and turn on offer. The subtle insertion of the late Adrian Guerra's vocals impresses even heavier the weight of emotion Mirror Reaper works with. Even in the lengthy minimalist passages late in the composition, the band gracefully and gradually lead us through highly emotive territory, with near perfect segues into organ passages, before driving forward to a cyclic, cathartic close.

Few albums can respectfully represent an emotion with as much legitimate weight and personal circumstance so seamlessly woven in. While its surface length and ponderous nature warns off casual listeners, the passage through grief is not something that comes fast, and as a eulogy to Guerra and a gigantic slab of emotional ritual, you would be hard pressed to find a representation of grief as primal, cathartic and yes, as beautiful as Mirror Reaper.

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