Funeral Doom Friday: BELL WITCH's Mirror Reaper, A Stunning Piece of Dualism
Finally, the weekend is upon us. What better way to kick it off than with the latest installment of "Funeral Doom Friday". For those who are new to this column; each week features a new or classic album from the realm of extreme doom. Much of funeral/death doom's might comes from an oppressive emotional weight and the use of death or black metal motifs (played at a trudging pace, of course.) Pioneers like Mournful Congregation, Evoken, and Esoteric have mastered this blend of dirge and destruction. For 25 years, they have methodically built compositions that stretch for dozens of minutes all while keeping fans enthralled. Time has elapsed since the days of Thergothon and much like the world around us, the genre has evolved. Today's modern bands contort the very construct of the genre, breeding darkly refreshing new work. Their work thankfully gives this column plenty of material to share.
The musical endeavor Bell Witch went on to create Mirror Reaper is not easy. Much has happened that brought the Seattle duo to where they are now. Even the concept of Mirror Reaper is staggering in both scope and its execution. Their third full-length album plays as one single, 84-minute song that is thematically broken up into two parts: "As Above" and "So Below". The album truly is something stunning. Yet, it is also much more visceral and tangible following the passing of former drummer and vocalist, Adrian Guerra.
Dylan Desmond and Guerra formed Bell Witch back in 2010 and released two full-length albums, Longing and Four Phantoms (this column's album of the year in 2015). Following the completion of Four Phantoms, Desmond and Guerra professionally parted ways. Jesse Shreibman replaced Guerra in the Bell Witch lineup. The new-look duo soon began to shape what would become Mirror Reaper but tragedy struck when Guerra died. Desmond and Shreibman lost a close friend and former bandmate—and nearly the band. Adrian was a significant part of Bell Witch for many years and actually makes an appearance posthumously on Mirror Reaper.
As Mirror Reaper pushes towards its inflection point—the point where "As Above" becomes "So Below"—Adrian's voice appears. It is a haunting crescendo that signifies "…the point between life and death." Desmond said about Guerra's vocals in an interview with Noisey. He sung on the previous records and his inclusion on the new record is not only a transition in Bell Witch's personnel but a poignant tribute to a fallen brother. Erik Moggridge, the man behind Aerial Ruin, also appears on Mirror Reaper. His contribution to the record presents a duality with the extended introduction.
Of course, the highlight of this staggering endeavor is how well Desmond and Shreibman work together. The mere fact that the duo could make an 84-minute long song that keeps a listener engaged from start to finish is a testament to their talent and vision. The pair continues to utilize only a low-end. Desmond plays bass and Shriebman plays drums as well as a foot organ to Bell Witch's music. These morose passages are seemingly less heavy than Four Phantoms. However, the greater introspective tone and the abstract qualities of life and death the album presents build a much more personal connection to the music.
It is necessary to state that Bell Witch's status in funeral doom continues to grow. They are becoming a titanic force in the genre. Their previous efforts were modern gems in the realm of funeral doom and Mirror Reaper ranks highly with those and other great releases. Mirror Reaper arrives today through Profound Lore Records. Listen to the new album below and find Bell Witch on Facebook and Twitter.