Witchcross’ self-titled debut album first saw release in 1993 and is getting a vinyl reissue in 2018 courtesy of I Hate Records, but the sound is closer to the classic doom that spawned a decade before. Relentless-era Pentagram makes for the best reference, as the raw production gives Dereck Anderson’s guitar a bottom heavy crunch similar to that of Victor Griffin while Bill Jannusch’s vocals sound like a wider ranged Bobby Liebling. Comparisons could also be made to Trouble as the occasonal psychedelic ventures feel like lo-fi equivalents to what their fellow Chicagoans were doing around the same time.
The album’s seven songs cover a fair amount of variety in only thirty-one minutes. “The Golem” proves to be the strongest track, and its grinding riffs conjure memories of “All Your Sins” as well as the Hebrew folk monster narrative. Elsewhere, “Final Days” and “Bad Trip” boast solid mid-tempo muscle that’d fit right in with classic Witchfinder. In general, “Scars” and “Black Mary” ride more upbeat grooves, and “Together (We’ll Get High)” displays hippie rock aspirations.
With this in mind, the execution on Witchcross’s debut is predictably embryotic. The production isn’t too much of a deal-breaker for seasoned doom fans already acquainted with groups like Bedemon, but tracks like “Together (We’ll Get High)” would’ve sounded better with a cleaner presentation. The songwriting can also get a little rocky at times; there’s nothing bad on here, but a track like “The Ebony Clock” succeeds in a spooky atmosphere more than a particular memorable riff set.
Overall, Witchcross’s debut album isn’t quite classic doom material, but it’s a pleasant listen for those already familiar with the genre’s essentials. While the band’s Sabbath and beyond influences are proudly worn on its sleeves, there’s enough variety to make the homages fun, and a short runtime keeps it from wearing out its welcome. Judging by the band’s plans to release their fourth full-length album in the near future (with the original lineup intact, no less), it looks like they still have plenty of life left in them.