The Underground Sounds of America: Bell Witch
Welcome to the latest installment of U.S.A.: The Underground Sounds of America, our series that shines a spotlight on the most underrated rock, metal, punk, and hardcore bands in the United States. Each week, we ask one band member to answer five unique questions so you can get to know them better. Because if you aren’t already a fan of the artist featured below…you should be.
To call Bell Witch’s music “doom metal” is an understatement. The genre may conjure thoughts of bluesy Black Sabbath grooves, fuzzed-out Sleep riffs, or over-the-top Candlemass operatics — but Bell Witch sounds like the end of days; like death itself.
In fact, until seeing them live, one would never know that Bell Witch is a duo. The Seattle, Washington, outfit featuring bassist Dylan Desmond and percussionist Jesse Shreibman (both of whom share vocal duties) specializes in deeply mournful, plodding funeral metal that one could imagine blaring over the loudspeakers at the gates of Hell.
Given the band’s ominous tone, it’s perhaps equally tragic and fitting that founding member Adrian Guerra passed away in May of 2016, as Desmond and replacement drummer Shreibman were writing the band’s latest album, 2017’s Mirror Reaper. The gloomy, heavy — yet ethereal — work is made up of one 84-minute song that explores the dichotomy of life and death.
With this third studio release (their fourth album, including a 2011 self-titled demo), Bell Witch have hit a career high point, while only breaking the surface of what they can potentially achieve in the long run. Sonically, it’s a stunning piece — especially when considering that all of that noise was generated by just two individuals.
Soon, the band will embark on a world tour that will kick off in Montreal for the Quebec Deathfest on October 19th, and wrap up two months later in Dublin, Ireland, on December 14th. Their North American, UK, and European dates are all listed at the bottom of this page.
But first, turn the lights off, light some candles, and crank some Bell Witch as loud as your sound system (or the neighbors…or the Heavens) can handle, and get to know founding member Dylan Desmond a little bit better as he answers some of our burning questions.
1) What would you say is the single best way to introduce someone to Bell Witch? (i.e. what song, album, or musical arrangement would you play for them?)
I think Four Phantoms would be the best introduction. It’s the first record where the band’s sound was mostly complete, as opposed to the demo and [our first full length] Longing. Those two records were mostly written at the same time, and Adrian and I were still experimenting with song structures/approaches. Mirror Reaper might not be the best starting point, as it’s one 84-minute song that I believe few people listen to in its entirety. Four Phantoms has a bit of everything we do: long form songs that have few changes, as well as songs with different time signatures, several vocalists, death metal sections, funeral doom sections, ambient sections, and more.
2) We heard that you book a venue in Seattle. How would you describe the Seattle metal scene today, and how does Bell Witch fit in there?
In 2010, I founded — and still own — a venue/bar in Seattle called Highline. We focus on and have hosted a lot of the heavy/underground bands that come through Seattle. There are other venues that do similar things, of course, as Seattle has always had a great scene for such music.
Over the years I’ve watched the city change, similarly to a lot of major cities in the US and rest of the world. Seattle has had a construction surge due to the tens of thousands of people moving here every year to work for various tech businesses in the city. I don’t know if that has contributed to any more bands being formed over the years, but it has definitely brought more people to concerts when they perform.
3) Name your five greatest musical influences?
1. Michael Hedges
3. Worship (Germany)
4. Mournful Congregation
4) Who would be on Bell Witch’s dream tour?
4. Bolt Thrower
5. Arvo Part
5) What’s the most metal thing you’ve ever done?
I eat, drink, and shit metal. Take your pick.
Be sure to catch Bell Witch in North America and Europe on the following dates:
October 19 — Montreal QC — Quebec Deathfest
October 23 — Boston MA — ONCE
October 24 — Philadelphia PA — Kung Fu Necktie
October 27 — Baltimore MD — Days of Darkness
November 28 — Reykjavik IS — Gaukurinn
November 30 — London UK — The Dome
December 1 — Leeuwarden NL — Into Darkness Festival
December 2 — Sint Niklaas BE — Darken The Moon
December 3 — Wiesbaden DE — Schlachthof
December 5 — Leipzig DE — UT Connewitz
December 7 — Poznan PL — Sala Gotycka
December 8 — Berlin DE — Zukunft Am Ostkreuz
December 13 — Cork IE — Cyprus Avenue
December 14 — Dublin IE — Thomas House
Words: Ethan Fixell
Featured Photo: Kit Leuzarder
Live Photo: Kelia Ideishi
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