Arkham Witch - I Am Providence - (8/10)
Published on January 7, 2016
Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth and Herbert West walk into a bar.
It’s no secret that Keighley-based hard rock fiends Arkham Witch are huge fans of H.P. Lovecraft, with their name and the bulk of their lyrics based on the author’s texts. After their Innsmouth-themed second album Legions of the Deep, the band dives even deeper into the Lovecraft-canon with I Am Providence, which takes its title from the epitaph on the writer’s tombstone. Along with the companion-EP Weird Tales, the band puts a heavy metal/punk spin on a meaty slice of Lovecraft’s bibliography, while simultaneously paying tribute to their musical heroes in a mind-boggling diverse manner.
After a haunting piano piece, I Am Providence’s titular track kicks into gear with a Ramones-influenced punk rock rumble. Effortlessly changing up between genres, including Misfits-esque punk, Blue Öyster Cult-inspired hard rock, and classic heavy metal, Arkham Witch present a huge assortment of beer-chugging riffs and cosmic horror served with a wink and a shit-eating grin. The majority of I Am Providence consists of short punchy tunes, with only a couple of songs pushing past the 3-minute mark. Adding to the grab-bag nature of the album, eclectic frontman Simon Iff displays an impressive vocal range, adding weird touches and twists throughout the colorful menagerie of songs.
In my review of Legions of the Deep Respawned, I noted that Arkham Witch have been dragged down a bit due to their inconsistent songwriting. I Am Providence makes Legions seem monotonous by comparison, achieving the strange feat of sounding like different bands from song to song. Bound together only by the Lovecraft-themes and a cheery attitude, there are bizarre fluctuations all over the place, for example between the Dead Kennedys approach of “Re-Animator” and the somber piano arrangement “The Rats In The Walls”, with the latter also getting a hard rock rearrangement later on the album. This schizophrenic nature feels absurd on initial spins, but the tongue in cheek approach and sense of unbridled fun ties everything together, and makes for a very entertaining listening experience.
To reiterate; on the surface I Am Providence is completely ridiculous, with the catchy party-metal anthems such as “Bring the Old Ones Down” and “Necronomicon” coming off as especially silly. However, by almost abandoning the old school doom sound that persevered through Iff’s other band The Lamp of Thoth, Arkham Witch have embraced their calling as hard rock chameleons. You don’t have to grasp every musical reference to enjoy I Am Providence, or even be familiar with Lovecraft’s work. The pure joy and energy put into these songs is rather brilliant, and the band’s ability to slip between different styles is nearly unmatched. Add the fact that Lovecraft himself was by all accounts a teetotaler and a rather serious gentleman, and the weirdness of I Am Providence comes full-circle.