Witchskull – “A Driftwood Cross” (Rise Above Records)
Strewth, these dudes are hard workers – only forming in 2014, they’re now onto their 3rd full length album! Hailing from Australia, Witchskull came together when old school friends vocalist / guitarist Marcus De Pasquale (Looking Glass) and drummer Joel Green (Armoured Angel) joined forces with bassist Tony McMahon to create a bluesy doom outfit. Despite their occult name, Witchskull’s music is less ominous than Sabbath (at their most insane) but still wields mammoth heavy riffs and quite differently, speed, with plenty of fast sprints to go with the droning fuzz. Then there’s the blues rock aspect, which definitely lends plenty of soul and a stylish groove to bind all the elements, as well as add an interesting counterweight to their doom darkness and aggression. Touring down under, the band have played shows in Canberra, joined the Sydney leg of the Doomsday Festival with Windhand and toured New Zealand with Beastwars. With “A Driftwood Cross”, Witchskull hope to get further afield, namely to Europe and the US (aside from their debut show at New York’s famed St Vitus Bar) and on the strength of this release, there should be ample reason to do so! While some of their younger peers might be content to stick to the established doom formula, the more seasoned trio of Witchskull go right back to their roots in heavy rock which offers a definite appeal to older aficionados as well as younger listeners craving something more classical. Certainly, for a trio they make one helluva of a noise and on ‘Baphomet’s Child’, De Pasquale’s dirty, chugging guitar is given more than a boom from McMahon’s deep bass and the hammering drums of Green, but it’s his catchy warbles and melodies, not forgetting his more-soulful-than-Ozzy vocals that do the wonder on this number. Heading into full headbanging plod on ‘The Red Altar’, complete with slow droning riffs tinged with feedback, smashing drums and McMahon’s ultra heavy plucked bass lines, the quiet(er) aspects prepare you for cascading waves of pure doom power that are irresistibly soaked up and topped off stylishly by some laid back blues guitar – that is, until they go ape shit mental at the end with frantic tom beats and even hippy wailings! Chugging and warbling to the gallop of ‘Dresden’, De Pasquale shows off his fretboard skills as his highish singing is contrasted superbly against the backing barrage of McMahon’s rumbling bass and Green really laying into his drums and cymbals – before going mid song into a slow psych passage complete with trippy guitar and wails of ‘…colour of a witches eye..’ – until hammering off again with plenty of droning waves and catchy grooves to the end. With 8 neck threatening gems here, you can really feel the doom thunder from down under on this one.