Color the decade starting in 2020 as looking to be a stellar one for doom with women at the mic. Solstice has Hilda Thorne out front now, Stygian Crown just released a monster debut album, and for this review we have King Witch’s second album Body of Light. I’ve been digging this band for quite a while now. Their self-released EP Shoulders of Giants was good stuff and the debut album Under the Mountain even better, pushing into really good territory. This new one though…just wow. This is flat out a great album.
Body of Light blends the doom metal and trad metal seamlessly with some well incorporated and not dominant 70’s influences. What really sets this one apart and solidly on the top shelf are its individuality, so prominent it is very difficult to think of other bands King Witch sound like, and the jaw dropping talents of the individual members. All these factors were clearly present in the band’s previous material, but really comes to peak fruition on this one.
Straight off the bat an epic tinged intro leads into the crushing groove of the title track. During the first 90 seconds quite a few of this Body of Light’s strengths are up in your face and smashing your ear drums. The 70’s influences are as much Rainbow as they are Sabbath. The guitar tone courtesy of Jamie Gilchrist is thick and heavy but not quite like anyone else’s with inventive riffs (not the easiest thing to pull off in doom) and technically brilliant well thought out leads. The drumming from Lyle Brown is just immense with a great feel almost like the jazz influenced complexity and uniqueness of Mitch Mitchell or Bill Ward was wielded through the precision of Neil Peart. The vocals of Laura Donnelly are yet another heavily impressive factor – this lass has a serious set of pipes. Rory Lee’s bass may not immediately jump out at you the way the other members do, but that is not the nature of metal aside from a select few bands like Iron Maiden where bass is almost a lead instrument. This guy manages to both be an anchor and fill in the crazy assortment of pockets and spaces King Witch’s music presents. Add to all that some seriously adroit song-smithery (multiple sections that hold together with great congruence and memorability), and a very energetic and spirited performance and you have a song that would have anyone doubting the remainder of the album can hope to match up.
The first single, “Of Rock and Stone”, quite quickly dispels those doubts showing yet more facets of the band. This one is more straightforward, a bit simpler, and catchier than the title track. This is one serious iron ear worm and makes a lot of sense as the lead single and video from the band. Ms. Donnelly’s performance on this one lets the fierceness fly and allows her to stretch out her amazing voice even further. At this rate, I’m going to run out of adjectives and unique ways of describing the songs on this album. Suffice to say there is not a single dud and not even a tiny whiff of filler. It’s high quality all the way but I’ll call out a few tunes with aspects not described above. “Solstice 1 – She Burns” is a great behemoth that starts with some great lighter guitar work, lurches into a pounding bluesy riff, wanders (but with purpose) in a sort of progressive doom fashion until speeding up into race to the finish. “Witches Mark” shows off the band’s much more up-tempo facet, charging hard straight through. Closer “Beyond the Black Gate” is immense enough to do justice to this album’s ending and also gives Ms. Donnelly a chance to really let go and belt out the vocals to an amazing degree, perhaps the most intense on the album. Singing that hard while maintaining full control is no mean feat.
The production on this is killer: loud, clear & punchy. What so many doom bands miss is that the songs are critical. The songs on this album are each individually very, very, strong and as a collective audacious in their aim of keeping the standard high – an aim they completely hit on Body of Light. Put this album on earphones, turn it up, tune the rest of the world out, and just lose yourself in the music. I would dare any metalhead not to be blown away. Doom heads should be heads over heels with this one. If the current growth curve King Witch is on continues the future holds something wonderfully scary…as it is this is stunning right here and now.
Favorite track: Body of Light