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The Witch: Paralyzed (2008)

September 23, 2011

witch paralyzedRoll: 6-1-11
Album: Witch, Paralyzed

It sort of heretical to say, but the only two J. Mascis records I love (much less own) are by Witch. This is entirely because the indie-rock guitar god doesn’t play guitar on them. Or sing.

Try as I might, for two decades I’ve been unable to swallow the blue pill and truly enjoy Dinosaur, Jr. Which is a little odd since they sounded a lot like my favourite ’80s indie bands (Husker Du, Sonic Youth) and inspired most of the stuff I was listening to in the ’90s. Which is why I’ve always been able to appreciate Mascis’s weedy vocals and unmistakable guitar style even if it never really gelled for me. To borrow another sci-fi idiom, Yoda would say do or do not, there is no try. I did not.

The nerdy allusions in the above paragraph are apt since Witch is nothing if not an homage to vintage Dungeons and Dragons metal acts.

Or perhaps that’s not exactly accurate. “Homage” suggests a too-conscious aping of Sabbath, Zeppelin, Maiden, Motorhead and Priest. Though the 2008 record sounds like it could have been recorded in 1978, it’s not classic-metal-by-numbers. You can unmistakably hear love for the above-cited bands in Witch’s music but, unlike many contemporary bands exhuming this type of rock, Witch have sewn the cadavers of the past into their own unique sound.

One thing that makes their sound so unique, even among the original metal bands they’re following, is the raw, punkish intensity of their playing. There isn’t a punk or hardcore riff within miles of the album, but they play sophisticated metal riffs like they’re three-chord punk thrashers. Something that was always missing the first time around with this kind of thing.

Even from the start Black Sabbath was too polished, too warm and  fuzzy (pun intended). Motorhead always had the grit but not the musical chops. Maiden were too precise to ever feel truly dangerous, etc

Witch manage to play with the ramshackle recklessness of a garage band like Mudhoney but with the musical sophistication of their too-sterile Seattle brethren, Soundgarden. For fans of metal, grunge, psychedelic rock, or just plain old rock’n’roll, this is having your cake and eating it too.

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