Review: Devil’s Witches ‘In All Her Forms’

In an obvious, don’t-judge-a-book-buy-it’s-cover metaphor, I had pegged Glasgow’s one-man-but-with-guests ‘band’ Devil’s Witches as yet another fuzzed-out, occult-based, Electric Wizard-worshiping, narco-doom band, what with all the hype surrounding their debut, and last full-length, 2017’s Velvet Magic, to say nothing of the band’s name itself. As is often the case, that record nonetheless wound up on my oft-mentioned, never-ending ‘list’ of bands /albums I need to listen to, which, of course, I have not. So, upon getting the opportunity to review Devil’s Witches sophomore release, In All Her Forms, I was eager to dive in and see what the fuss is about.

Devil's Witches 'In All Her Forms'

First, from my research, Devil’s Witches seems to mostly be the work of one man, James Abilene, and evidently, he recruits various guests, but for the most part, this is a one-man project, and the fact alone, that one musician had the vision, creativity and talent to put this together in of itself is notable.

Second, In All Her Forms, while featuring aspects of the aforementioned fuzzy, narco-doom, offers so much more. There’s layer upon layer, texture upon texture, from the trippy and dreamy, to the heavy and crushing. Take instrumental opener L’Image which features some soaring, effects-heavy riffing, and some rolling, thwack-y drums, setting the stage for the fuzzy-riff-fest that is Successive Slidings Of Pleasure which instantly boasts some of the heaviest, fuzziest, chugging-riffs I’ve encountered all year. This is also the first time we hear Abilene’s distorted, echo-y, yet melodic voice, which floats ethereal-like over the riffage. However, it is here where the first curveball of In All Her Forms is thrown, as the outro of the track features some pleasant, melancholic piano to bring things to a close.

Keeping the mellower vibe, Devil’s Witches flow right into the single, and video, the psychedelic and acoustic Blood Of The Witch which features early ‘70s occult-folk vibes, overstated by Abilene’s dreamy vocals, and wispy guitar strumming. After the short, bass-rumbling instrumental interlude, Pussycat In A Woman’s Skin, album highlight Space Age Sorceress lurches from the speakers, with massive, distorted riffing, trippy vibes, and the now-forever-embedded-in-my-brain chorus, with the earworm annunciation of ‘space age sorceress’. Hunting Dracul is another highlight, and perhaps my favorite of the mellower tracks. It’s melancholic, haunting, and ethereal, with some truly awesome clean, yet trippy guitar work, and Abilene, as a singer, sounds fantastic here. His voice truly conjuring a sense of sadness and sorrow.

Elsewhere, Magic Mamma, is the ‘hit’ of the record, if such a thing is possible with a band this underground. Abilene serves up a memorable fuzzy riff, coupled with his dreamy, floaty, impossibly catchy chorus, that, dare I say, sounds happy in places. Perhaps it’s the handclaps on the way out, they add a nice touch. Smoke And Sorcery is a killer interlude-type piece, just Abilene‘s voice, and clean-yet-echo-y guitar playing, that segues right into another riff-heavy banger, Queen Of Wands.

The balance between massively heavy riffage and mellower fare, including pianos, and folk-like acoustic guitar served as a real sonic dichotomy…

Tide Of Jupiter sees the return of the piano, and serves another mellow interlude, before the gigantic closer Hymn For The Supervixen which possesses a ridiculously massive, heavier-than-shit riff, harkening back to the band’s previous material. But as always, Abilene‘s vocals serve as the yin to his massive riffing’s yang, providing a deft balance in his sonic attack.

There’s a cohesive narrative running through In All Her Forms, that touches on the idea of Maiden, Mistress, Mother, Matriarch with each theme taking up each of the four sides of the vinyl version, but understanding, or following this narrative isn’t necessary in enjoying the album, as I spun it multiple times, before I had any idea, about a ‘narrative’ or ‘story’, and didn’t find out about that aspect of the record until I started doing research for this review.

On a side note, when researching Devil’s Witches, I will mention I was mildly put off by all the Vietnam War imagery and aesthetic. I get that era serves up a lot of vibes in musicians minds, but as an American whose father served in combat, I find a guy from Glasgow tapping into this to be slightly over the top, and eye-rolling. Nonetheless, that didn’t tarnish my experience with Devil’s Witches, and lord knows there’s bands out there using way worse ideas and imagery for their aesthetic.

In All Her Forms is one of the cooler, more unique albums I’ve encountered this year. The balance between massively heavy riffage and mellower fare, including pianos, and folk-like acoustic guitar served as a real sonic dichotomy, not to mention Abilene‘s vocals, and the fact this is mostly written and performed by him. In All Her Forms has given me plenty to think about as I try to whittle down all the amazing music released in 2022 to just 10 albums.

Label: Majestic Mountain Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams