“Suffocation, A Burial: 1 – Awoken (Breathing Teeth),” the first song on Bell Witch’s most recent album, 2015’s four-song Four Phantoms, is as foreboding as its title — 22 minutes of slow-motion bass riffs, odd moaning and narcotic drumming. If David Lynch were to make his version of hell, this would be playing while Dennis Hopper’s contorted face warns everyone in the scene that the end is near.
The Seattle duo of bassist Dylan Desmond and drummer Adrian Guerra formed in 2010, delivering atmospheric, unexpectedly hypnotic doomsday anthems without reservation or lack of devotion ever since. Their 2012 debut full-length, Longing, is six songs, each a trip down a dark, cinematic rabbit hole, including the curiously drumless drone of “Beneath the Mask,” which features audio of Vincent Price from Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe-inspired film Masque of the Red Death.
Four Phantoms’ final track, the nearly 11-minute “Judgement, In Air: II – Felled (In Howling Wind),” opens with some seriously menacing vocal croaks — both Desmond and Guerra “sing” — before culminating in cymbal crashes and textured bass feedback that eventually recedes to a whimper. The song’s — and album’s — intentions are hard to decipher beyond its mood-altering darkness. But Desmond has shed some light.
“Each ‘phantom’ on this record is meant to represent a ghost in connection with an element,” he told Pitchfork last year. “The songs, musically and lyrically, are stories from each particular ghost suffering a continuous death from the respected element of the song. At times they ask for mercy, other times they ask for it to continue in a sort of self-hating, masochistic frenzy. We’re approaching the concept of ghosts with the idea that ‘hauntings’ are a surfacing of some type of subconscious, metaphorical expression of trauma.”Translation: This is bleak stuff, delivered through a stark, oddly visceral musical vision.
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