(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Lead Journalist/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
It has been over a month now since the latest release from Stoke-On-Trent, England’s mystical psychedelic entity Space Witch, was issued. That release, “Arcanum“, came out on June 9th, in fact, via HeviSike Records.
The release comes as the band celebrates their tenth anniversary of activity, meaning that Space Witch have been casting their cosmic spell since 2007.
The band currently consists of Darren Lee Rowlands (guitars/founding member), Daniel Mansfield (drums), Peter Callaghan (vocals/electronics) and Tomas Cairn (bass). The critically lauded quartet are stepping once more into the breach with this mind-bending delivery of psyche-infused space rock.
Did you happen to know that is what Space Witch is primarily all about? The creation and execution of brain-blowing musical realms, where one can lose themselves amid the ever-changing, aurally alternate plane.
The lift off here is initiated with the introductory ‘Cosmonoid‘, as hallucinatory vibes slowly pulsate forth and intriguing sound effects ebb and flow. They slowly pull you outward into the expanse, you seem to really feel a sensation of floating if you imagine hard enough.
There’s also a concurrently existing shroud of heaviness that gradually finds its way into the sonisphere that now cocoons you within. Thick, rhythmic pulsations permeate the tonal tapestry, as dirge type drums keep a cadence tempo up, until everything explodes with the entrance of heavy guitars. At a playing time of nearly sixteen minutes in length, this beginning sets the bar high for that which will follow.
What does follow is ‘Astro Genocide‘, an immediate headfirst dive into a more doomed phasing. A darker hue takes hold of the music as semi-discordant guitars chug and churn away with implied abandon. Eventually things hit an even keel and some melodic nuances manifest themselves. Superbly administered drumming provides a powerful high point to this song throughout, while the first hint of vocals appear nearly two-thirds of the way through.
They are gruff and bellowing at times, similar to Mastodon’s Troy Sanders, yet at other times more akin to Primus’ Les Claypool. The near-ending segment of the song reaches a furious onslaught of dangerous instrumentation, which acts like a perfect segue into the crushing density of ‘Hex‘.
‘Hex‘ is perhaps the most straightforward song here, in my opinion. A more traditional one, composed of lethal doom tuneage. It batters you with a constant pummeling of aptly timed blows, while some boisterous, aggression-laden vocals narrate things, before it all abruptly detours back into the psychedelia. Synths soon beckon from the beyond the void, while an almost hypnotic patterning dominates the music itself.
Fourth and final track, ‘Battle Hag‘, begins with some odd effects, while a static-y guitar begins to poke through the veil. It’s soon accompanied by bludgeoning drum strikes and shuddering rhythms before an implosion of powerful, progressive music takes the controls. A spiraling, alternating cycle is soon established, one with times of chaotic, heavy music that then gives way to vastly heady, lysergic flavoring.
Space Witch’s ‘Arcanum‘ is a demanding, take notice type of release. One inspired by everything from Hawkwind and Pink Floyd, to Farflung and Acid Mothers Temple. Just listening to it is the equivalent of taking a tab of sonic LSD, for it allows you to experience moments of true escape.
Of course, those moments then get obliterated by fierce transitions into aggressive musicality and visceral vocals. Yet, it all provides the craft needed to take one hell of an amazing ride into the unknown of these multi-dimensional songs.