Witchclan is a one-person black metal band hailing from the UK. Despite “The Dark Binding” being the band’s second full-length, multi-instrumentalist Matt Bass has been at it since the early 90’s. This is my first experience with the band, and while it is certainly passable black metal, it is not quite my thing. For one thing, the production is really strange. The bass is boosted incredibly high. If you’ve ever played around with an amp and taken out pretty much all of the trebles and mids and put in bass, that is what it would sound like. That’s only the rhythms though; the lead is much more normal sounding, and is something you’ll hear quite often. The first full-length track, for example, uses plenty of leads over top of the rhythm guitars, but underneath the vocals. When all of these instruments come together (alongside drums and bass, of course) things get a bit muddled. The vocals sound like they’ve intentionally been recorded so as to not sound great (and thus, more authentic). The drums are likewise quite distant sounding, and often times the only audible parts of the kit are the snare and bass drums.
“The Dark Binding” stays true to the musical formula of black metal: there is an endless amount of tremolo picking on this record, to the point where riffs become indistinguishable (though there are a few more standard riffs). Blast beats are in no short supply; however, Witchclan does mix things up in the drumming occasionally, which is nice. In fact, “Worms of Hypocrisy” shows a few moments where there’s a bit more of a rock feel because the drumming lays off a bit while the lead guitar plays a relatively tame melody. One thing Witchclan does unique, to their credit, is the way they use keys. There are a few tracks on this album where every instrument goes down in the mix and lets some chime-like keyboards take center stage. Personally, I find this change a bit jarring, and it gives off more of a creepy vibe than an enjoyable one. Of course, if that’s your thing, you’re going to love “The Dark Binding”. There are some songs on here that sound like they were written only to create disturbed atmospheres (those familiar with certain temples in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time will definitely appreciate these moments; “Dawn of the Serpent Kings” is the best example).
The album as a whole is certainly competent black metal. It’s hard to give a strict comparison to another band or scene, but Witchclan makes extensive use of black metal techniques while throwing in their own flair occasionally. The songwriting is by no means unmemorable (especially for black metal), but I also don’t find it to be particularly effective. “The Dark Binding” will likely appeal to a lot of black metal fans, but as someone who already only enjoys the fringes of the subgenre, it is a tough sell.
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"Worms of Hypocrisy"
3.5/5 or 70%.
Written by Scott