In 2008, ACID WITCH released their debut, “Witchtanic Hellucinations,” which quickly became one of the most buzzed-about (pun intended) Doom albums of the past several years. Paradoxically, the album generated this attention because of its combination of several retro characteristics – slow riffs, low-fi analog production, psychedelic organ, and old-school horror. Two vinyl-only EP’s have been released in the time since, continuing the same formula and prompting some critics to complain that they band were stuck in the same creative mindset and were incapable of delivering anything fresh (missing the point that Doom is often not concerned with creating something fresh to start off with).
Despite what other critics may claim, ACID WITCH’s latest release, “Stoned,” demonstrates a band that is more than capable of growth, without sacrificing its signature sound. “Stoned” is still full of classic, down-tempo riffing, Psychedelia, humor, and cheesy horror, yet displays some differences from its predecessor. In particular, there has been a maturation in the keyboards, as “Slasher” Dave’s capability with this instrument has grown since “Hellucinations.” Whereas on the debut, the organ was confined to simple passages intended to convey a pulsating, entranced atmosphere, here it plays a stronger role in the melody. The work on tracks such as “Live Forever” is impressive, and conjures the rockin’ vibe of giants Jon Lord and Greg Lake.
Those wanting a continuation of the core sound, however, need not worry, as the band have retained the most important elements that made the earlier material so fun to listen to. Monstrous riffs still dominate, and the guitar tone remains among the most rich and the most frightening in Metal. The growls have changed a bit since the departure of previous vocalist Lasse Pyykkö (whose work with HOODED MENACE made it impractical to continue with a band based an ocean and half a continent away). And though Lasse has emerged as one of the best growlers working today, Dave has stepped up and taken over quite nicely. Perhaps most importantly, the humorous approach to classic horror remains intact, as evidenced by “Metal Movie Marijuana Massacre,” replete with references to LIZZY BORDEN and FASTWAY.
Perhaps the only element sorely missed this time around is the hollow production quality found on previous material. ACID WITCH have cleaned up the sound a bit, and in the process have sacrificed some of the spaced-out quality that made the music so distinct.
This is but a quibble, however, as “Stoned” is a solid piece of Death/Doom. ACID WITCH continue to set the bar high. “Witchtanic Hellucinations” is out of print, and is now commanding unreasonable prices in the secondary market. Those who missed out on it should not make the same mistake again.
(Online February 5, 2011)