Labeled as a blackened death metal project out of Portland, Oregon, Witchbones caught my attention solely due to the name as well as the album art of their newest effort The Seas Of Draugen. This is not only the one-man project’s second release, but also the second one to drop this year. Proceed with caution, though. Do not go into this expecting something along the lines of Behemoth. Despite the tag, this is very untraditional from black or death metal.
Instead, this is an absolutely terrifying effort that gives off a cross-feeling of being stranded in storms in the middle of the ocean, and demons swarming the skies surrounding (and the album cover basically is that). I chalk the latter point up to the vocals, as they’re mostly inspired by death metal growls, but drawn out into horrifying howls that don’t have the slightest sense of comprehension. This is backed by guitar passages that bask heavily in the early ’90s style of black and death metal, and the production coats such a nasty finish. The end product feels like a legit storm; very windy, very muddy, and endless evil.
That said, this was very difficult to get behind because of how one-sided it is. The Seas Of Draugen is seven tracks, and rather brief. But my description from above works for every single track, with very little in the way of breaking it up. There is one exception, that being “Nebulous Ghost Ship,” sitting right in the middle. This calms things down, acting somewhat like an eye of a storm. Rest assured, it’s still haunting and eerie, introducing a piano and small musical inlays that remind me of a haunted house built centuries ago. The bulk of the song is not like that, but at least it splits everything into two halves.
The best way to get an idea of what I mean is to listen to it yourself. If the idea of Witchbones is to invoke a heavy sense of terror and fear through demonic growls and harsh instrumentation, then they absolutely nail it. On the musical front, I can’t say that there’s really a lot to get out of this. Thankfully it’s quite short and doesn’t overstay its welcome, coming in somewhere around the twenty-five-minute mark. If you go into this to achieve a feeling, you’ll be satisfied. If you go into it for musical elaboration, you’ll be quite disappointed.
The Seas Of Draugen will be released on December 6th, 2019 through Iron Bonehead.