(By David ‘Sunshine’ LaMay, Staff Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
Kingston, NY’s Shadow Witch returns after a strong 2016 début (‘Sun Killer‘) with a motherload of dark, 70’s proto-heavy musical goodness. With a new man behind the kit, and a fresh deal with Salt Of The Earth Records, the quartet has laid down a very potent, wow-inducing second offering in ‘Disciples Of The Crow‘.
The proceedings draw blood immediately. The misleadingly titled opener ‘Love Could Be Like This‘ starts with serrated, swirling guitar, then speeds away in a hail of powerful vocals, rich harmonies, and psychedelic lashes. The stage is set.
From there, the album ebbs and flows with grace and assured ease. ‘Reap‘ grooves and pulses, while ‘Cruel‘ works its magic through start/stop riffs and layered vocals. Things take a more primal turn for the title track, as the band slows up the horses and slithers slowly to the song’s conclusion.
The speed returns for ‘Stranger Skies‘, revving up the listener before the highlight of the album unfurls in the form of ‘The Sea‘. True to its moniker, this track begins with a very aquatic feel of storming water, with acoustics setting up a build into near-epic territory. Think of Purple’s ‘Child In Time’ (especially in the stellar vocals) with more insistence, and you’re not only in the ballpark, you’ve got great seats.
With two tracks remaining, I think I’ll leave them as a mystery, and move into other territory…
Normally, doing anything remotely along the track-by-track lines is definitely not my thing, but ‘Disciples Of The Crow‘ seemed to insist upon it. The record is a rare bird indeed (pun fully intended), in that despite Shadow Witch having a clearly defined style and sound overall, each song really, really has its own identity beyond even that. I just could not find a way to go any other route. Well, for the most part anyway.
Now, there is one last, extremely important tidbit I would be remiss in not mentioning – the sound. ‘Sun Killer‘ was, as mentioned above, a fine effort, but the one thing that hung it up a bit for me was the production. The songs battled through and showed care and craftsmanship, but received no help from a somewhat muddy, ill-defined mix. Was this done for mood, or simply an issue of resources? Damned if I know, but ‘Disciples Of The Crow‘ has addressed this issue in a praiseworthy manner.
It sounds excellent and brings the band’s many talents into a new, much brighter light. The highs are crisp, the mids balanced, and the low-end full, fat, and defined properly, so as to clearly hear the rhythms throb rather than rumble.
While all involved benefit from such a substantial leap, frontman Earl Walker Lundy ends up the biggest winner. For my money, Lundy’s voice is one of the best in the heavy business at present, and now, you’ll really hear it. His smooth, multi-faceted delivery and vocal harmonies really command your attention.
In conclusion, I just cannot find a single flaw in ‘Disciples Of The Crow‘. Not a one. Hell, I tried. From musicianship through songwriting, and all the places wedged in between, this is one stellar experience. No one likes eating crow, but thanks to Shadow Witch, you’ll at least love hearing it… on one of the VERY finest releases of 2017.
SHADOW WITCH is:
David Pannullo (bass)
Jeremy H. Hall (guitars)
Doug “Beans” Thompson (drums)
Earl Walker Lundy (vocals, mellotron, samples)
‘Disciples Of The Crow’ – Track List:
1. Love Could Be Like This
4. Disciples Of The Crow
5. Stranger Skies
6. The Sea
7. Beneath The Veil
8. Dead Heroes
All songs on ‘Disciples Of The Crow’ were written and performed by Shadow Witch. The album was recorded between May and August 2017, by Earl Walker Lundy at Temple Of The Downward Witness, with mixing and mastering by Paul Orofino at Millbrook Sound Studio. Additional performance on ‘The Sea‘ with Nicholas Thompson (tympani) and Nick Glosque (operatic voicing).
Cover illustration by Earl Walker Lundy (after Frank Frazetta), Shadow Witch logo by David Paul Seymour, layout and graphics by Bill Kole, band photography by Kristin Troost Hall. ‘Disciples Of The Crow’ was inspired by the writings of Robert W. Chambers, H.P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King.