Burning Witch - _Crippled Lucifer_
(Southern Lord, 2008)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (9.5 out of 10)
Burning Witch, for those not hip to the game, is the missing link between Thorr's Hammer and Sunn O))), both literally and figuratively. Having been hatched by Stephen O'Malley, Greg Anderson and Jamie Sykes following the demise of Thorr's Hammer, Burning Witch proceeded to light a brief though highly flammable fire under the ass of the doom scene for around two whole years before splintering like the severed head of a hydra into Sunn O))) and Goatsnake, among less notable others. Fronted by the shredded tonsils of the unfortunately monikered "Edgy59" -- is that your stage name or the first chat room handle you could pull off the dome? -- the Witch terrorized the Seattle area incessantly with extended globs of metallic sub-grunge like aural molasses dripping snot-like through the collective psyche of the few lucky enough to witness their underground presence.

_Crippled Lucifer_, then, is an anthology of all known Burning Witch recorded works, a superbly packaged collection of both commercially released EPs (1996's _Towers_ and 1997's _Rift.Canyon.Dreams_) plus both tracks from their belated split with Goatsnake (Hydra Head, 2000) and "Rift Canyon Dreams" from a long out of print split with Asva. Over the course of two chronologically sequenced CDs (the only thing broken up unnaturally is the Asva split, both tracks of which were actually recorded well before their eventual release), the band hack out a lofty canon of formidable doom mongering before going their separate ways completely unheralded. Before I even talk about the music itself, though, I want to give a shout out to Southern Lord, who came through with the full CD artwork and inserts in an age of increasing record label cheapness.

Ten years ago it was pretty much a given that the majority of labels would send the press full copies of the CDs with inserts, merely lacking the easily shattered in the mail jewel cases; but these days, what with everyone pinching pennies and cutting corners to save a buck in the post-Napster music industry fall out, it's rare to see a label send the full CD packaging for consideration. This is all well and good if there's nothing notable in the packaging aside from maybe the lyrics, which can easily be offered up on a website, but if for nothing else beyond the easy availability of digital downloads, it's important to be able to comment on the fact when a certain release's packaging is part of the selling point. _Crippled Lucifer_ comes with a massive booklet of abstract yet doomy art, no doubt whipped together by Mr. O'Malley himself, although he's apparently too modest to admit to such in the liner notes. Those that are familiar with his graphic work post-Sunn O))) will have an idea what to expect, although perhaps underestimating the bounty involved.

Perhaps the most massive and crushing (crush-inspiring) piece in the entire Witch cannon remains "Country Doctor" from that first EP. Over a slow motion sinister gallop, Edgy59 chokes forth emotionally charged barrages of inspired shrieks bemoaning, I don't know, whatever... it doesn't really matter. "Country Doctor" in itself sounds more like an Americana track than it does a metal one, but make no mistake, it's as steel plated as they come. On the second CD/EP, Edgy mixes it up with the occasional melodic wail, and traditional doom fans may appreciate the slightly more forward pacing of this later material; nonetheless, the early stuff makes a solid case for O'Malley venturing off into the more stripped down, atmospheric -- and largely vocal free -- sludge of Sunn O))). As Aaron Turner (founder of HydraHead Records) relates in the liner notes, "when I first heard Burning Witch I laughed... and then I did not".

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/burningwitchofficialpage

(article published 6/11/2008)


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