Reviews : Albums : Burning Witch, "Crippled Lucifer"

Burning Witch, "Crippled Lucifer"
Burning Witch
Crippled Lucifer
Burning Witch, "Crippled Lucifer"

Burning Witch’s short but memorable career was punctuated with the release of two 12” EPs, Towers… and Rift.Canyon.Dreams. The first time this material saw the light of day was when Southern Lord pressed it in 1998. Now they have rereleased it for all those who missed it the first time around. Backing up a little, Burning Witch plays painfully heavy, slow, tortured doom. The vocals are sneered and distinctive, with occasional singing that may slightly resemble early Sabbath. The music is slow, grating and treacherous. Many of the songs are unabashed to pass the 10-minute mark, and often as not the tracks plod along but don’t often offer a climactic, memorable moment. Listening to Crippled Lucifer is pain. Plain and simple, it’s torture. The music isn’t bad, really, but it’s uncomfortable and drawn out and ugly. Very few doom bands since Burning Witch have had the nerve to keep their music sounding like music but deny the listener the pleasure of following along.

The above described sadism is particularly prevalent on the band’s Towers… installment of this release. All five songs are too much for me to take, especially the debilitating 14-minute “Sea Hag.” This EP is just too bleak. On the Rift.Canyon.Dreams half of the album, by about the third track, Burning Witch gives us listeners just enough digestible material to get a handle on what they’re doing. The last three songs “History of Hell (Crippled Lucifer),” “Communion” and “Rift.Canyon.Dreams” are all less of an aural effort in patience and stabbing agony. The first of the three is short and does build nicely, while the second does away with some of the density that make many of the other tracks hard to swallow; there’s lots of emptiness and grumbling feedback, but it still has structure. The third song is the last on the album, and it’s a keeper for those into spacey, heavy, builders that later bands such as Yob have mastered. It demonstrates that Burning Witch really were hugely instrumental in what doom has become today, and it does it with as much style as this band can capably muster.

Crippled Lucifer is a mandatory album for purists who need a sense of the genre’s roots and like their doom thicker than molasses. It’s impressive in how ugly and heavy and hard it is to listen to, but it definitely shows where the genre’s been, not where it’s going.

Standout Tracks

   History of Hell (Crippled Lucifer)

Peter Johnston