The riff hits. The adrenalin kicks in. The darkness erupts. All heavy metal hell breaks loose. The Coven is awake…
The philosophy behind Witchskull’s take on the essence of primeval heaviness is simple enough. Listen to the first few seconds of the Australian trio’s brand new, second album Coven’s Will and if the vibe doesn’t instantly grab you by the balls and the synapses then maybe you walked in through the wrong door. Channelling the spirit of the metal gods and injecting every last moment of their rampaging anthems with a jolting dose of lysergic menace, Witchskull are the unstoppable real deal.
“From the start we only wanted to play primal music from the gut,” states drummer Joel Green. “We all have very similar tastes from our youth, so it was easy to focus on what we grew up on… and put our own spin on it. There was no specific direction, just anything that was heavy with a healthy dose of groove and swagger! It all came pretty naturally, we just let the songs evolve over time in rehearsals and they kind of arrange themselves.”
Formed in Canberra in 2014, Witchskull grabbed the attention of the hirsute, underground hordes with their first demo in 2015. The band’s debut album, The Vast Electric Dark, emerged soon after to great acclaim: its thunderous, turbo-charged squall striking an instant, devilish chord with headbangers hungry for life-affirming riffs, a dash of grubby-fingered authenticity and lashings of supernatural venom. Honed and nurtured in sweaty practice rooms and on stages across the band’s native Australia, the Witchskull sound has subsequently evolved, leading to Coven’s Will: a sophomore outing that looks certain to thrust the three-piece to the upper echelons of the stoner world. Recorded at Studio G in Brooklyn, NYC, with producers Billy Anderson (Neurosis/Sleep/Buzzov.en) and Jason Fuller (Blood Duster) and mixed at Jason’s Goatsound Studio in Melbourne, Coven’s Will has mutated into a snarling, muscular acid-metal monster.
“Tony (McMahon, bass) is from New York originally, so we wanted to make the album in his home town,” Joel explains. “Sonically, we knew Billy would be able to capture huge tones and we knew Jason would be able to mix it how we wanted. Jason did our first record, so having him there was a huge bonus. We wanted to make the album as organically as possible, going live to tape without click tracks and capturing most of it in the first or second take. Working with Billy was definitely an experience we’ll never forget. He also introduced us to Erica Stoltz (Sanhedrin/ex-Amber Asylum) who sang on two of the songs, and she did an amazing job.”
Boasting eight, groove-driven slabs of infernal fury, Coven’s Will pulls off the neat trick of sounding simultaneously timeless /and/ timely, as the fundamental principles of our beloved genre are fed through the Australians’ pitch-black prism and spat out in a shower of wild, hallucinatory devil blues. Ranging from direct, bowel-rattling assaults like opener Raven and the none-more-Sabbathian crescendos of Priestess to the more expansive, psycho-delic sprawl of Son Of The Snake and epic finale The Empty Well, it’s an album driven by dark thoughts, twisted nightmares and the looming shadow of mortal madness. According to vocalist/guitarist Marcus De Pasquale, Witchskull subsist on a thematic diet of “the Occult, fantasy, dreams, the Moon and the Elements, isolation, loneliness, depression, mental illness, regret and time… all the good, bleak things in life!”
“I see a lack of respect and regard of other species,” the frontman continues. “Our rampant materialism and selfish greed for money, the pollution of the oceans killing millions of animals and fish, the way pure and innocent representations are trampled and wiped out by narcissism and lack of any empathy. To me, that is very dark and evil.”
A crazy-eyed howl of discontent from the sun-scorched wastelands of Australia, Coven’s Will is a ferocious statement from a band that seem to be hitting their stride and gaining power by the hour. Newly signed to Lee Dorrian’s revered Rise Above Records imprint, Witchskull have found the perfect home from which to spread their irresistible gospel of unholy heaviness. Hell’s Gates have opened, the riffs are coming and the Coven compels you to surrender your soul…
“Once Lee said he was keen to release our new record, we knew Rise Above was the perfect fit for us,” Joel concludes. “It’s been something Marcus has wanted to do since the label first started, so when it happened we were blown away. We just want to keep writing and plan to get overseas as soon as possible. Hopefully this is the beginning of a long journey.”
Dom Lawson, March 2018.