As far as occult doom metal goes one could argue that Electric Wizard and Psychedelic Witchcraft sit comfortably near the top. So when Dead Witches, led by Mark Greening and Virginia Monti whom you’ll recognize from the earlier mentioned band’s respectively, announced they were working on debut full length Ouija it seemed to good to be true. Even though the album has a couple of issues it’s a satisfying debut full of the kind of 70’s sounding psychedelic doom that is tuned low and played slow.
There’s just something about the sound of 70’s music, it has that warm and welcoming feel. The music itself, no matter the genre, has a living, breathing soul and in the right hands this can absolutely be magical. Dead Witches members know this from their own experiences outside of this band and do their best to collectively bring it all together here. Everything from the lo-fi production to the mammoth sounding bottom end makes the puzzle pieces on Ouija come together quickly.
But let’s get past the issues first; Monti’s vocals here are fuzzy with effects and too low in the mix. In her other band, Psychedelic Witchcraft, she is such an integral part and can belt it out but here is instead restrained and withheld. Maybe this is to keep the music as the focal point but it comes as a missed opportunity knowing what she’s capable of. Then there’s the repetition through the first three tracks (not counting the ominous mood setting “Intro”) in which the band finds a couple of grooves and with the exception of a few well done solos plays them out, again and again. If you’re not paying attention “Dead” and the following two tracks mesh into one long drone. Well played doom is great and repetition is to be expected in doom metal but without much variance attention spans grow increasingly short.
Just when it seems like you’ve figured it all out “Mind Funeral” strikes with towering riffs and the kind of massive heaviness that some of Greening’s other bands (Ramesses, With the Dead) are known for. Greg Elk’s riffs alone are worth the price of admission and when locked step for step with Carl Geary’s bottom trawling bass it truly is the kind of listening bliss that only some of the best doom can provide. Unfortunately Elk passed away late last year but thankfully his work will forever be memorialized on Ouija, RIP. Closing track “Sometimes Dead Is Better” highlights some of Greening’s best drumming, his quick pace changes keep the song interesting and not to mention the solo he gets near the end is immaculate. It’s about as close as you can come to a live experience without physically being there. We already knew he was a great drummer but here he puts the exclamation point on it. These last two tracks save the album as a whole and make the time invested to get here worth every second.
Other than the missed opportunity with utilizing Monti’s strong voice and early repetition, Dead Witches have a strong debut on their hands with Ouija. If they can capitalize on these weak points album number two will be a top to bottom stunner. Still, this is great occult doom metal with rythyms that will stick with you long after you’re finished with an initial spin.