You’ve got to have a good sense of humour with a name like Space Witch, haven’t you? With the market on prime ‘Bong’, ‘Witch’ and ‘Goat’ aided doom band names growing ever smaller, a band utilising these kinds of suffixes needs to really stand out of the pack musically to get noticed these days. Goat Witch. Goat Bong. Bong Witch. Bong Goat… apologies if any of these are actual bands, but you get the idea. I know I’m not the only person whose first reaction to another addition to the GoatBongWitch family is an extended, exasperated sigh. So, how will Space Witch fare?
On the one hand (and this almost certainly says more about my own prejudices than anything else) I had envisioned terrible, plodding trad doom from Space Witch, having never heard them before. Perhaps trad doom with a guy chanting ‘rites’ about the Salem Witch trials, or some intergalactic, cross-dimensional romance between a Princess Leia type and the eponymous witch. But my fears were soon allayed upon putting this record on; rest assured, there’s nothing funny about this latest release from burgeoning cassette label Cosmic Tomb (who have previously released the excellent Trollkraft’s Bogs and Brimstone EP). Stoke’s Space Witch (est. 2008) are an instrumental 5-piece who weave together a lot of ideas and mighty riffs over the course of this 3-track (and really rather good) EP.
The Alchemy Paradox sticks loosely to a theme (see song titles: “Hang the Witch”, “Cosmic Cauldron” and “Black Pyramid”) and to a musical formula too, but without ever becoming formulaic. The latter song in particular bucks a trend, for example, by staying relatively pacey, never shedding BPM in its singular, driving vision, akin to some of Kyuss’ more tumultuous moments. But it’s the opening two songs in particular that strike a doom-filled chord with this listener. After a tempestuous start, “Hang the Witch” settles into a laid-back crawl which carries on through to “Cosmic Cauldron.” In both songs, riffs start up, cast their slow enchantments and then either swell up as the distortion builds or fall back to make way for the next progression. In this sense Space Witch bring to mind Bongripper’s progressive, exploratory take on doom. “Cosmic Cauldron” features a disorienting and Ouroboros-like downwards spiral of notes, slowly pulling you down into a stupor before “Black Pyramid” blows away the cobwebs, taking you on a fast-paced whirlwind-tour of the cosmos.
The irony is that my initial scepticism about Space Witch’s name has long since been forgotten and I’ve actually used such pompous phrases such as “cast their slow enchantments” and “taking you on a fast-paced whirlwind-tour of the cosmos” in my attempt to describe the band’s EP, which suggests that this is a band for whom prejudices should be left at the door. The bottom line is that Space Witch are a great band who should do well with this new lineup, and fans of instrumental doom and sludge would be very well advised to check out The Alchemy Paradox and support the good folks at Cosmic Tomb Records because this sort of goodness needs to be encouraged.
Now cue a snappy closing sentiment about the band casting a spell on you. Sigh…
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin