Review: Witnesses ‘The Collapse’

So, here we are again, another release by the incredible Witnesses, or should I say Greg Schwan’s incredible music project Witnesses. Not one to rest on his laurels, Schwan has pulled out another masterpiece, this time entitled The Collapse, and as is the way with the Witnesses behemoth, it’s an absolutely emotive beast indeed.

Witnesses ‘The Collapse’

Having been on the Witnesses ride now for the fourth time, the one thing that I can say, without any hesitation, is just how they leave me feeling. Every time I have travelled these paths, the feeling of emotional purging has been overwhelming. The Collapse further seals in concrete just how incredible a creative force Schwan is, and to be a passenger on these excursions is a complete blessing.

As with previous outings that I have ‘Witnessed’, Doom II, IV, and the Poltergeists EP, Schwan doesn’t just write music, he writes mood, tone, and senses. The way the music catches you is something that most musicians would only dream of achieving. Creating ‘cinematic atmospheres’, as is listed on Bandcamp, the mix of doom, metal, and dark folk is blended to create something that actually can be felt on a different level to most music. Its dark foreboding nature, which Schwan seems to have a complete mastery of, truly can be felt, and how he lays it out defies belief.

The Collapse is the latest journey into those realms, and for those of you brave enough to take the ride, hopefully you will come away from it with a bigger understanding of just how music can have a completely spiritual effect. Through the six tracks, Witnesses leads us down a dark path, truly the stuff of nightmares. Apt that it was premiered on these hallowed pages, and released on Halloween, 2021, really.

With help from long time contributors Mark Kozar and Scott Loose of the superb Stellar Death, another band who I had the honour of reviewing in recent times, this adventure pulls forth the talents of Anlaik on a wonderful vocal ride, and the sublime Milana Zilnik, who’s absolutely enchanting piano work on Interlude, is as poignant and morose, as it is captivating. As always, Greg Schwan steers the ship, and the multi-instrumentalist lays out his vision, for all to see.

As the title suggests, album opener, Entrance, is just that. An ambient noise which rolls in, foreboding and dank. It sets the somber scene for what’s about to come, as it resonates with depression and misery. As the title track The Collapse thunders in, its incredible mix of clean vocal over a doom-laden soundscape is truly mesmerising. Both dark and thick, you can literally feel the texture of the sound.

its incredible mix of clean vocal over a doom-laden soundscape is truly mesmerising…

It instantly conjures images of phantom phenomenon and grief. When its heavy, its throbbing, and it’s as menacing as it is woeful. Drawing comparison with The Ocean, and Katatonia at times, the depressing storyline captures the mood, as cinematic soundscapes lap through my mind. The Collapse truly captures Witnesses in phenomenal form, and really shows how versatile Schwan is, both as a musician, and as a composer, its truly wondrous.

Repose capitalises on what’s gone before, and in the way the album is ‘built’, it’s much more like the telling of a story than it is a collection of songs. Its considered, thought out and constructed. Again, Anlaik’s vocal works in unison with the breakneck pounding of drum and chugging guitar on the heavier passages. It creates some real jumpy scare moments, in the otherwise eerie composition.

They Giveth And Taketh Away is an almost eleven-minute slab of intensity, and the feeling of dark moroseness truly has its grip on me. A somewhat sobering start is broken a couple of minutes in, by wailing guitar, and yet more pounding drum. The vocal passage is clear and precise, and the overall mood is doomy and dark. The ebb and flow in pace really gives a feeling of unease, and when it’s thunderous, it’s incredibly intoxicating. By the time it dies away, I’m exhausted, it’s an intense ten minutes.

It Will Come For You, It Comes For Everyone closes the album, and it really is a symphony of darkness. The feeling of complete loss and the futility of it all is a hard pill to ingest. Once it’s over, the want to completely break down is overwhelming.

As always, I am in complete awe of what Schwan has created. This is how music should leave you, with a feeling that is more than words can express, something that leaves you changed by its very nature. To say its ‘just music’, and not want to delve deeper would be a complete travesty, and I implore you good folk, go out, find Witnesses on Bandcamp, or whichever platform you use, and just let the experience take you away, you won’t be disappointed.

Label: Independent
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Lee Beamish