Album Review: Witchsorrow - God Curse Us
Of all the subsets of heavy metal, doom may just be the hardest to do well. While thrash can get by on the adrenaline of speed, prog can get by on intellectual arguments, and death and black metal can get by on sheer aggression, doom has nothing to fall back on. The plodding tempos make doom subject to falling into tepid boredom, repeating the same riffs over and over again until the blur into a mash of heaviness. Black Sabbath was able to avoid this pitfall, both because they were not beholden to doom, and because Tony Iommi had the greatest knack for writing riffs that could survive on their own of any guitar player in the history of metal. The bands who have come afterward and adopted only the slowest, heaviest bits of the Sabbath canon often write themselves into a box, so rigid to tradition that they fail to understand what made their influences great.
Witchsorrow offers up a thunderously heavy slab of doom metal on “God Curse Us”, a slow death march into the depths of doom. The album is certainly heavy, and brings with it all the ominous omens of impending carnage, but something gets lost along the way. As the nine minutes of “Aurora Atra” unfold, the limitations of doom are made apparent. The main riff is decent, but lacks the killer hook of Sabbath's best work, repeated more often than it needs to be, with little help offered by the vocals. The song is all about the riff, which isn't good enough to justify nine minutes of the listener's life. The tempo shift at the end is a godsend, pulling the song out of the mire long enough to redeem itself somewhat. That it took until the end of the song for any variation to come is a failure of songwriting, putting the ego of the riff ahead of what was good for the song.
The title track is much the same, built from a riff not sharp enough to be the focal point of a song. Whereas the riffs conjured by Tony Iommi are regularly sung back by roaring crowds of fans, Witchsorrow's efforts don't have that quality. Instead of drilling itself in your head and not letting go, these riffs lumber by one after the other, looking tired for having to drag so much weight with them. The droning chords of “Masters Of Nothing” can hardly be called a riff, offering little in the way of a musical idea. Yet again, it's an example of something that could have worked as a break in a song, but lacks enough punch to be a song on its own.
What's worse is that “God Curse Us” offers almost nothing in the way of variety. The entire running time is spend in the same lurching tempo, making the already thin palate stretch even further towards the limits of patience. Simply put, everything on the album goes on past the point of diminishing returns. What may have made a good five minute slice of doom is turned into ten, neutering the power of the music simply by repeating it too often. The one small hope, the four minute “Breaking The Lore” ups the tempo enough to have some bounce, feeling completely energized after so much tedium.
“God Curse Us” isn't a total failure. There's plenty of ability when it comes to producing gloomy atmosphere, which can be built upon. But a bit of judicious editing is needed, something to make sure the songs don't overstay their welcome. Like many doom bands, Witchsorrow has yet to realize that leaving the listener wanting more is always a better alternative than giving them more than they can handle.