Witching – “Vernal” (https://witching.bandcamp.com/album/vernal)
Battle Helm Rating
‘…”Vernal” is a reflection of past issues that I was never able to process until I got older…being able to release this negativity and finding power in my wounds has shed light into my life..’. So speaks Jacqui Powell, vocalist of Philadelphia blackened sludge crew Witching on the eve of their astonishing debut. Formed only 3 years ago, this quintet have already landed an EP and two prior singles, turning plenty of heads along the way for not just their fearsome tunes, but equally deep and soul-searching take on issues like anger, depression and mental illness. Here, on the 8 electrifying tracks making up “Vernal”, those disturbing themes are brought to light through a cathartic release that holds no bounds in its performance, so be prepared for emotive intensity throughout, yet also the light of hope and strength in overcoming them. With a matching sound of blues tinged droning riffs emanating from the twin guitars of Lev Ziskind and Nate Zagrimanis creating a dense sound matched by Tatiana Buonassisi’s thick bass and the hammering drums of Miles Ziskind (Doggo), the real of measure of Witching’s music is in its superb melodies, be they as darkly disturbing as Powell’s insane shrieks or melancholically reflected by her anguished wails, while bringing uplifting serenity during moments of ambiance. Indeed, the power of this release only builds as you are drawn in song after song, immersed in the captivating music of each track until the very end, where as if saving the best for last, the hypnotic trance illusion of ‘False Martyr’ is shattered like breaking glass by Powell’s screamo and fed by a rolling down tuned groove with Buonassisi’s bass growling evilly in the background in this utterly enthralling number. Smashing in on the title track ‘Vernal’, the droning guitars and pummelling drums are nothing short impenetrable on this superb mix of black metal tastefully laced with heavy metal melodies, while Powell’s husky screamo and Buonassisi’s sinister bass together create just the right occult atmosphere to possess you once again. Scarcely drawing a breath, the intense closer of ‘Eschaton’ sees chopping black / death riffs meld with catchy melodic death melodies as Powell wails and screams brilliantly atop it all, while the power of this band, when it chooses to bring the hammer down is undeniable. A blinding debut from a truly remarkable group!