Review: Witchfinder ‘Forgotten Mansion’

2022 is destined to be the year for the French stoner, sludge and doom scene. These past ten months alone, we have seen (and heard, hopefully for you) the acclaimed releases of Red Sun Atacama’s Darwin, Decasia’s sublime sophomore album An Endless Feast For Hyenas, Fatima’s excellent Fossil, Clegane’s White Of The Eye while other gold nuggets like Mudriver and Mauvaise Foi’s self-titled EPs and Brusque’s first full-length album, cemented their places within big names like Hangman’s Chair and Year of No Light. Needless to say, the light-hearted chauvinist in me was thrilled to be given the opportunity to listen to fellow doomsters from Witchfinder, hailing from Clermont-Ferrand and their latest album Forgotten Mansion.

Witchfinder 'Forgotten Mansion'

If you are not well-versed in their discography, this is a very good place to start – you are being invited fairly quickly into their world, halfway between Electric Wizard’s smoking booth and the back of a haunted church where witches will cut your tongue if you dare say a word, which is a double-edged sword because you never know how many listens you will need to make your own opinion. You don’t know if the sound is heavy enough, fuzzy enough, gloomy enough, atmospheric enough, but you’re curious enough to want to see where it could lead you.

That’s why more than one listen is required to get there. But… WAIT? Is that a keyboard? Yes, it is, and it works really well during the entirety of the album because it gives you a coldwave feeling to the songs, almost as if you needed those to be fully immersed in the aforementioned forgotten mansion.

The opener Approaching could have been an outtake of Dopelord or Monolord that I wouldn’t have noticed. But hear me out, it’s because the riffs are there, like a pathway to their universe more than anything else, which is what we want if you listen to them for the first time. If you are a true fan of the band, it might feel a bit odd, but again, you get used to it very quickly.

Marijuana starts with a Greening-like drum beat which works wonders – courtesy of Thomas Dupuy – only to be complimented by Stanislas Franczak’s guitar and Clement Mostefai’s reverberated vocals and heavy bass. It is a catchy song, perfect for live performances, where hordes of stoners and freaks headbang in unison, especially during the last minute when all you hear are growls and screams coming from an old horror movie flick. This one will make a groundbreaking entry to their regular setlist and become a fan favourite in no time, you heard it here first

The slow burn, the big theatricality in the vocals, the huuuuuge riffs, the powerful bass lines…

Lucid Forest and The Old Days also have the same structure – and by that I mean, a slow-burner with great vocal harmonies, but doesn’t have the same kick as Marijuana. It feels like you wait for the moment when it’s going ‘BOOM’ but it doesn’t come, they’re still great tracks though.

My favourite would certainly be Ghosts Happen To Fade; everything in this track speaks to the scream queens and horror buffs in the house. The slow burn, the big theatricality in the vocals, the huuuuuge riffs, the powerful bass lines and that last part with all the screams. Chef’s kiss.

With this record, Witchfinder is showing the world that they have the guts to make the crowd, the listeners at home, the reviewers too, feel things, for better or worse. Forgotten Mansion does not have the pretension to upstage any Lee Dorian-adjacent band anytime soon, and the production of the record seemed a bit botched to be fully appreciated as it should.

However, it is obvious that this band are getting better at what they do, and for that reason, and also because of the brilliant addition of Kevyn Raecke on keyboards, Witchfinder’s Forgotten Mansion is worth all the attention because hell knows what the future holds for them. I, for one, will follow this with extreme caution, and cannot wait for it to happen; but be nice, join the queue first.

Label: Mrs Red Sound
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Nessie Spencer