Review: Bell Witch ‘Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate’

The cataclysmic rendering of Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper record still reverberates through the extreme music scene to this day, over five years since it first emerged from the nether realm like its album art cover suggests. Tectonic, apocalyptic, a record that has bewitched many since that day and it is always a pleasure and a curse to anticipate how a band will follow something so seminal. Well, your answer is Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate, Bell Witch‘s new record out now through Profound Lore.

Bell Witch 'Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate' Artwork
Bell Witch ‘Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate’ Artwork

One track. 1 hour, 23 minutes and 15 seconds long. Exactly the same as Mirror Reaper. If that doesn’t immediately give you an idea of the scope that this project is coming from, nothing will. Viewed as part one of the Future’s Shadow trilogy, The Clandestine Gate opens with slow, haunting organ notes that drift through empty space. It reminds me a lot of Asva’s What You Don’t Know is Frontier record, and as piano keys take over the melancholy at around four minutes, the morose gloom is starting to really set in.

Like all good funeral doom, The Clandestine Gate isn’t just an exercise in soul sucking heaviness (although when that starts to hit around the eight-and-a-half-minute mark, ooft) but also it is about tension, about atmosphere and about emotional weight too. The ghostly choral vocals come in after eleven minutes, an eternity for most bands but a mere blink in Bell Witch‘s time.

a titanic ouroboros of doom…

Upbeat isn’t the word, up-tempo certainly isn’t but there is a real sense of space, of vast open vistas that aren’t quite as dark and miserable as we were led to believe. By twenty minutes you could imagine almost this being an ambient piece, but with drums and guitar of course. It is huuuuge, but begins to close in on itself from here, trembling quiet notes shudder in the encroaching darkness and fade away into almost nothing. Sinister vocals weave within a single, creeping melody.

A more gloomy and funereal mood takes over, nothing cataclysmic yet, more like a trudge to the edge of the world. A stare over the end into the void, pausing to contemplate the abyssal growls emanating below you. The organ and choral vocals return as well, like a redemption light as everything starts to crumble. A conscious effort by the band to showcase more of their individual instruments and vocals perhaps? Certainly, it seems that way to me. The final, dirging destruction of death/doom tectonics, punctuated by organ once more, is the pièce de résistance of a work that is ritually spellbinding and invigorating.

I read in the promotional material that Future’s Shadow Part 1 was inspired by the minimalist films of Andrei Tarkovsky as well as the concepts of eternal return, where time never ends, and death is not the end of life but the beginning of a new infinite cycle. You can see exactly how, in the planetary, cosmic expanses of Bell Witch‘s soundscaping abilities; if this is the first part of a triptych that is destined to loop back upon itself like a titanic ouroboros of doom, then it foreshadows a truly time rending masterpiece. We are witnesses to the funeral doom’s rapture.

Label: Profound Lore Records
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Scribed by: Sandy Williamson