When your bass player's name is Dave Sweetapple, you know you've got some potential for hard rockin'. And when your guitar players come from a "freak folk collective," you've got some potential for interesting guitar parts. And when J. Mascis is your drummer, then fuck man, that shit's gonna be thunderin'. Ever since the sweet bygone era of Deep Wound, Mascis has been one of the most innovative and forceful -- not to mention fast -- drummers to forsake their instrument to play over the top guitar solos in a boring indie rock band. Well, definitely boring in comparison to the ferocity of Deep Wound.
When I heard that Mascis was jumping on the throwback metal train, I was stoked. The popularity of the genre can only bring more commercial appeal to labels like Tee Pee, who've consistently put out classic metal albums in the run of their existence. And shit, who doesn't like a nice, heavy groove? Witch's debut release provided just that. Solid, heavy grooves. A nice classic feel, some powerful drums and heavy rhythms. Killer lead guitar lines by my man Asa Irons. Interesting songwriting by Kyle Thomas. The whole package tilted to spooky doom metal with its forcefully slow tempos. It was a set-up for something potentially awesome. I felt that the sophomore release could only do better.
Oh, how I was wrong.
Citing Mascis' tendency to rush songs while playing live, songwriter Thomas admittedly decided to try and write fast songs in the first place. Big mistake. The album opens with some ripping dual guitar intro licks, badass Motörhead basslines, intense drumming, throwaway semi-abstract lyrics (the best kind for metal, because then it won't distract you from the killer guitars), and some seriously fucking awesome guitar soloing. Okay, let's be honest. The song sounds like the B-side to Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" with some abstract guitar soloing in strange key signatures, sort of like Slayer. But that's where the awesomeness of fast tempos ends.
The follower, "Gone" is a mid-tempo droner, almost a return to form. It's the semi-melodic tune that metal bands always throw in the mix for variety. Which means its neither good nor bad. But necessary. "1000 Mph," "Space God" and "Mutated," however, are sheer parodies of themselves. Speeding up the riffs makes for crappy cock rock that gets overshadowed by horrendous lyrics like "One thousand miles an hour, she's a speed demon," "I'm leaving town, and I don't know where I'm going," and "Got nowhere to go, society twisting me." It's almost painful to listen to them.
But that's fine, 'cause "Disappear" is a strong, driving hard rock tune and "Sweet Sue" is their version of a ballad, a heavy, slurring tribute to some sort of lady. "Psychotic Rock" is a droning slow, simple lurching song of mental disturbance, and it's pretty fucking great too. The album closes out with the swinging "Old Trap Line," taking everything that's great about heavy music -- painfully slow tempos, thick rhythms and interesting guitar lines. When Witch is on, they're fucking on.
The album feels schizophrenic, but I guess that's obvious. Some really interesting songs that could garner a great review are absolutely tainted by three bad ones. But that shouldn't bring down the quality of the individual songs themselves.