Review: Witch Ripper ‘The Flight After The Fall’
When I think of Seattle, I’m predominantly guided by the whole grunge scene of the ‘90s. During this time I was mostly a teenager, and that scene has been my companion through life ever since. It’s hard to shake that period, or the association with grunge, so any time a band rolls out from Seattle, I always hope it’s going to be some sort of grunge rebirth.
So, you can imagine my sadness when this usually fails to become a reality. Until now that is, and although the album I’m about to review isn’t grunge, it’s absolutely incredible.
After knowing of the band’s existence for several years, I’ve never really given Witch Ripper any of my time, so when the opportunity to review their latest album came up, I was keen to finally put a proverbial face to the name. It was an added surprise to find that the band actually hail from Seattle, and even beyond that, are making very listenable music indeed, even if it isn’t grunge related.
What Witch Ripper do is uniquely their own, a fun pairing of space age prog, and stoner sensibilities, which are incredibly hard to categorise into any one dynamic. At times there’s a little Mastodon going on, and this is felt quite heavily during track two, Madness And Ritual Solitude, whereas, at others, I want to gravitate towards Coheed and Cambria, although I don’t have the biggest knowledge of that band, beyond the pomp and energy they seem to deliver in their music.
It’s weird for me because I get a very real want to say there’s a nudge towards theatrical, or even operatic rock, within the same vein as ‘70s Queen or David Bowie and I can see why that’s mentioned on the press statement. Not because that is the sound the band is going for, it’s more because the very theatrics of the music gravitate towards that timeline. It feels equally as fun as it does serious, and while I believe there is a little tongue-in-cheek frivolity to things, it isn’t cheesy, and still feels incredibly legitimate.
To end this, let’s just say think less The Darkness, and more early Queen, and you should get a mental picture developing.
As for the album itself, which is what we are all here for, The Flight After The Fall is essentially five tracks of space-age stoner prog, guaranteed to leave you hitting the internet, to delve deeper into this crazy bunch indeed. Coming in at just over three quarters of an hour time wise, with no track being under seven minutes, every second is sonically charged, and the result is a lavish display of sound and vision.
Enter The Loop opens the album, and right from its beginnings it feels like a space-age western rolling in. On my initial listen, I felt like it was post-rock in stature, and somewhat akin to the work of Katatonia and The Ocean, but the longer it played through, the less I felt that was the best analogy. The vocals flit between pompous clear, and guttural growled, both working in unison wonderfully. At times there are pummelling drums to up the ante, and those widdly guitar hooks, it truly is so much more than just your average slab of hard rock intensity.
The soaring guitar over a cinematic soundtrack is sublime…
As I stated earlier, Madness And Ritual Solitude is where those Mastodon comparisons kick in the most, but it’s kicked up a notch by the push toward a more bombastic operatic overture. The music itself dances between full-on and a more luxurious sound, and this powerplay is refreshing and fun to hear. At times it hints towards a more overblown ‘80s feel, and yet, at others, is driven by a precision and technique which is second to none.
The Obsidian Forge pushes the idea of an epic story, both heavy and chugging, and a thunderous drumming that even the gods themselves would be proud of. Again, it’s a third powerhouse performance, and even though its new, it feels both classic and timeless.
Now, for me, the second half of the opus is really where it steps up a notch.
Icarus Equation, while still following the rich and full-on structure its predecessors set, I feel like here it truly encapsulates everything the band excel at. If you need a single track to sell the band, then this is it. Huge in sound and scope, if you are into flights of fancy, then this will be perfect for you. Solos are opulent and wonderous, and even though it drops into that rock opera vibe, it’s definitely the best version of that demographic for sure.
This brings me on to the album closer, Everlasting In Retrograde Parts 1 And 2. Now, even though this is ‘technically’ one track, as the name suggests, it’s a game of two halves for sure. Part 1 is an expansion on everything else the band have been doing to this point, it’s hard and dark, with all the elements I’ve come to know, but what I wasn’t ready for was Part 2.
Kicking in at around nine and a half minutes, this is a more ambient experience. Stripped down in texture, it’s incredibly charming. For me, this is the highlight of the whole album. I absolutely adore the second half of the piece. I find it to be more soulful and emotionally charged than everything else to this point. The soaring guitar over a cinematic soundtrack is sublime. The vocal is also intoxicating, and it’s these final six minutes which truly captivate me. Trying hard not to cheapen any of what’s gone before, for me personally, this is the payoff. I guess every album should end on a high, and with this, it truly does.
Obviously, if you already know Witch Ripper, then this will be nothing short of a brand-new further adventure into the band, and if you are coming in blind, then all I can really say is sit back and enjoy the experience, by fuck is it a thrill ride to behold.
Label: Magnetic Eye Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Scribed by: Lee Beamish