Doom metal bands, creatively at least, seem to have backed themselves into a corner. Or in this case, smoked themselves into a corner. In the same way post rock calcified into a genre of peaks and crescendos, doom metal became a genre associated with weed. There are doom metal bands that don’t pray at the altar of the leaf, like Khemmis and Pallbearer. Still at this point for a segment of metal fans, the phrase doom metal typically conjures images of voluminous pillars of smoke and green leaves. However, on Forgotten Mansion, Witchfinder mostly veer away from these tropes. Mostly, I say.
For most of this album’s thirty-seven-minute length, the band avoid the pitfalls of the genre. Here’s a doom metal album that actually sounds kind of scary. Even the title conjures images of empty, haunted, gothic mansions. They veer into the occult aspects of the genre on most of the album. Still as good as this album is, the band can’t help occasionally falling into genre cliches.
For the most part this is a kind of spooky album. After so many modern doom vocalists imitating Al Cisneros or Lee Dorian’s growl, it’s refreshing to hear Witchfinder’s Clément Mostefai’s voice come out as a ghostly wail. On top of that wail, there’s keys adding intense atmosphere. There’s the riffs that lumber and steady drums you expect from a doom band. Here, these sounds create a frame that allow the spookier sounding ideas to live and thrive. Having a doom band go back towards the spookier sounds of that genre is great, let’s be honest.
Then there’s a song just titled “Marijuana.” To be fair, this is a band with a song titled “Sexual Intercourse” in their catalogue, so subtlety isn’t the band’s forte. Sonically it matches the rest of the album. Still, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Lyrically, it’s a song about getting high, going to space, and then worrying about going to hell. Mostly, it’s just about getting really high and the joys of smoking pot. On an album with songs about approaching doom and insanity, it seems more like a genre concession.
Witchfinder’s Forgotten Mansion for the most part is a moody addition to the doom genre. The band has an ear for mood and atmosphere. Even their one indulgence in the genre still plays into the creepy. Their skill for the creepy is something they should pursue more than genre cliches.
Forgotten Mansion will be available November 18 on Mrs Red Sound. For more information on Witchfinder, visit their Facebook page.