Review: Dead Witches & Witchthroat Serpent ‘Doom Sessions Vol.666’

Rome’s Heavy Psych Sounds have been running their series of Doom Sessions EPs for a while, each slab of wax featuring a side from one of the label’s extensive stable of awesome bands. The whole series to date has been heavy, but it’s reassuring to note that for instalment number 6(66) HPS have upped the doom quotient even further. I’m not sure if there’s an official SI unit for measuring just how doomy and occult-sounding a record is, but if there was, this one would be pushing all the dials into the red and having the scientists scratching their heads.

Dead Witches and Witchthroat Serpent 'Doom Sessions Vol. 666'

First up we have Dead Witches who, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll characterise as Mark Greening and a revolving cast of other musicians: they’ve released two albums to date, each with completely different line-ups and their contribution here features a new guitarist, bass player and singer. On the off-chance you don’t already know, Mark is original drummer from Electric Wizard who played on classic albums Come My Fanatics and Dopethrone, before heading off to equally heavy pastures new with Ramesses and With The Dead. On that basis alone I felt safe in betting that their contribution to the split was going to be heavy and awesome, and I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed.

The Dead Witches’ side of vinyl is D.I.E. (Dragged Into Emptiness), a single fourteen-minute track of pure doomy evil. As you’d expect, it’s heavy. Very heavy. The thick, creepy guitar tone and pounding drums might be expected, but the bass sits much higher in the mix than is generally the case and really adds to the sinister atmosphere. While Dead Witches hardly stray into prog territory, the track ebbs and flows with a series of awesome riffs and weirdly catchy vocal lines that really hold your attention. A menacing quiet section around the seven-minute mark leads into what initially sounds like an extended outro. Of course, the band aren’t done with you quite yet and come back with one more kick-ass riff that demands you nod along as it gradually sinks into the tarpit from whence it came. Really good stuff.

Next up we have Witchthroat Serpent, a band from Toulouse who have released three albums since their formation in 2011. After the release of their last album in 2018, Witchthroat Serpent underwent a line-up change, replacing their original bassist and using a second guitarist for the first time. Their contribution to this split is the first material released by the new look band. As is the case more often than it perhaps should, given my tenuous claim to be a music reviewer, I can’t claim any prior familiarity with Witchthroat Serpent. However, their half of the record came as a very pleasant surprise and ticked pretty much all of my boxes for what I like about heavy music.

an EP featuring two great bands delivering thirty minutes of heavy awesomeness…

Now, I’m going to take a crazy step here and talk about their second track FIRST. Bear with me. The reason I thought I’d deal with Cyanide Laced Flavour first is that it absolutely screams Electric Wizard. Now, EW are such an influential band that many in the scene owe them a hefty debt, but on this track Witchthroat Serpent could genuinely pass themselves off as Wimborne’s heaviest. If someone played me the track and told me it was an outtake from an Electric Wizard album (let’s say Witchcult Today or Black Masses – perhaps ironically given the company they’re keeping, the drumming just doesn’t quite sound like Mark Greening’s) I would absolutely believe them.

Everything about it is spot on, from the chugging groove and gnarly guitar tone to the creepy extended sample taken from the Jonestown death tape with a totally wasted Jim Jones ranting about revolutionary suicide. Most startling of all is how similar vocalist Redrik sounds to Jus Oborn – it’s genuinely uncanny and I would really struggle to tell them apart just by listening. I’m not intending this as a criticism either: Electric Wizard recorded awesome music, and this would sit very comfortably within their back-catalogue.

Their first track, The Fall Of Whitewood, which you may have heard on here a few weeks ago is equally good and shows a bit more personality. In the very best tradition of doom it’s slow but driven by a plodding, insistent groove. It’s heavy, hypnotic, downbeat, and thoroughly satisfying.

So, there we are: an EP featuring two great bands delivering thirty minutes of heavy awesomeness. The sun is blazing outside, but this should take you somewhere much darker. Enjoy!

Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
Dead Witches: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Witchthroat Serpent: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Liam Blanc