Review: Witnesses ‘The Holy Water’ EP

After reviewing several of the previous Witnesses releases, I’ve noticed that every time, it has left me feeling like I’m part of a much bigger world, but I am only a tiny little speck, in said world. For all of my ideas and opinions, what I’ve found from reading other reviews of the same releases, is that what I take from a Witnesses release is usually a little different to what others take from the same experience.

Witnesses 'The Holy Water' EP

This has left me feeling two things. One, that I am only a singular person, and what I take is so minuscule in the whole world of opinions, that maybe I’m wrong. Who knows, maybe I am, but the other thing I always get from a Witnesses release, is that the way they are concocted, leaves the listener so open to their own experience, and imagination, that actually that is the point. No two minds work or think the same, and in that, I take comfort.

The Holy Water EP, again, has left me with maybe a different take on things to what it will leave you with. And this is the point. In my head, these thoughts are swirling around, about death, and darkness, and moroseness. The EP is dark and ominous, yet I imagine for others it will be spiritual, and enlightening. Such is the scope, and sense of vastness, that one dark soul’s experience, could well be enlightenment for someone else.

Over the three tracks, the ethereal vocal, laid against a slow dark musical backdrop makes for a heavy ride indeed. The doom-laden intensity pulls the listener down into the dirt, the dank pits of hades, where the misery of the world lurks.

Opener, Borgo Pass, is an eight-minute and forty-second drudge through the quagmire. A slow, doom soundscape is over laced with Gabbi Coenen’s absolutely intoxicating vocal, somewhat gliding across the darkness. Taking things to new depths, Greg Schwan’s Witnesses concept for emotional response soundtracks has gotten even more primal this time round, which is incredible, considering that over previous releases, the groundwork was already dark beyond belief.

Taking its concept from the characters of Lucy and Mina from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and their different perspectives, once you make that connection, this piece is completely changed forever.

When I came to the table to review this, seeing it was entitled The Holy Water, my first thoughts were to the dark underbelly of the clergy perhaps, and based on previous Witnesses escapades, Schwan isn’t one to shy away from a great story, for the sake of maybe ruffling some feathers. Now, with this Dracula themed concept, and my knowing that, it changes my mindset completely.

A slow, doom soundscape is over laced with Gabbi Coenen’s absolutely intoxicating vocal…

Upon re-listening to Borgo Pass, now it all makes sense. Schwan’s attention to detail, mood, and tone of the piece is second to none, and even from the opening couple of minutes, it all makes sense. Like a movie score, or a soundtrack, Schwan tells the story in a way that defies a specific genre, but does something even better, it tells a story through sound, and imagination, more than treading a very well worn path and going with the obvious.

Cloistered In Purfleet is softer, and after a gentler introduction, it opens out, into a slow, whimsical musical monologue. Coenen’s intoxicating vocal is completely hypnotising, and leaves the listener breathless. Amidst moments of fractal heaviness throughout, her enchanted voice carries through, somewhat gliding its way over the piece. It’s painfully mournful, somewhat sorrowful to witness, but its darkness is its charm.

It ebbs and flows, like a tide rolling in and out, and the darker moments and passages are offset with glimmers of light. By the dying moments, the feeling of futility is overwhelming.

The final piece on the EP, The Ballad Of Lucy And Mina, is completely instrumental and played over twin acoustic guitar. It’s as beautiful as it is dark and perfectly encapsulates the project completely.

As with previous Witnesses releases, I’m left with a feeling like I’ve personally been through something. The journey to peel back the layers, and uncover deeper, has left me changed. In my pursuit of a full picture, I have become completely at one with the score.

For me, it’s like looking at a painting. I don’t just see the picture, I see the brush strokes, the thought processes, and the depth within. With Witnesses, it’s the same, it’s about discovering those little parts, and embracing how they make you feel.

Coming away from the EP, I can only be amazed at the sheer scope that Greg Schwan has, and how he can take an idea and form something in such a way that you don’t just hear it, but you feel it too, within your very soul.

Being part of the Witnesses journey, for me, is more than just being a bystander. Being able to share my thoughts, and know they are well received is every bit as important as the experience I take from every release, and feeling something from every Witnesses moment truly is wondrous indeed.

Label: Independent
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Scribed by: Lee Beamish