Purple Hill Witch – Celestial Cemetery (2017) REVIEW

At some point loving a time tested sub-genre of heavy metal like thrash metal or doom causes one to become an apologist for lack of innovation and aspiration solely because nostalgia and genre exemplar release become vitally important to the retained identity of said sub-genres. Of course this -seems- foul from a distance, but a band or artist shouldn’t be shunned for celebrating sub-genre. What this translates to for newcomers, and folks who fear the institution of socially agreed upon norms, is aged conformity and elitism. The politics involved in loving typical genre entries that pay simple tribute to the legends of doom metal lead to a lot of self-conscious avoidance of otherwise stellar releases. If ‘retro’ scares you and kitsch of proto-doom metal feels plastic regardless of the artist, you’ve been led astray by folks you probably shouldn’t trust as tastemakers. The reason for this rant? Purple Hill Witch are totally a proto-doom metal band, that is a hard rock influenced metal band that borrows style from 70’s Black Sabbath and gloomy heavy psych. ‘Celestial Cemetery’ is a proud step onto the doom metal stage that is earnest and occasionally powerfully delivered.

This young Norwegian traditional doom metal band is no stranger to psychedelia as evident in related project Spectral Haze (see their 2017 release: ‘Turning Electric’), but they’ve kept that sort of indulgence to a minimum on ‘Celestial Cemetery’. The result is an album that feels at first abruptly ‘doom’ and later shows subtle flaw in it’s own self-referential vocal lines. It is an unexpectedly downtrodden rambler of an album as their self-titled album from a few years back resembled Orchid and early Electric Wizard with it’s Cathedral-ish riffs and Acrimony style heavy psych tangents. With a different outlook and mood ‘Celestial Cemetery’ compliments the previous album but also outdoes it just enough to feel like positive artistic progress for the band.

What will undoubtedly turn away folks disengaged from, or seemingly allergic to, 70’s references might pull in the sort of stoner-rock fans who love to be buried in loose ‘Sabotage’ and ‘Vol. 4’ references. Though comparisons are hard to make in the cluttered world of traditional doom you’ll most likely get hints of Lord Vicar with a voice somewhat similar to Christian Linderson and a healthy amount of the hard rock inspiration found in Mountain Witch. The riffs feel relaxed while the vocals provide most of the tension that doom is known for, in this sense the album is more restful than a lot of comparable groups that similarly herald the sub-genre. It rests in its own doldrums in a cathartic way that I enjoy immensely and much of my enjoyment of ‘Celestial Cemetery’ is that appropriate tone and familiar sonic riffscapes it ventures with. My enjoyment comes as a dedicated fan of doomcraft and this is an excellent example of the things I love about doom metal.


Artist Purple Hill Witch
Type Album
Released November 10, 2017
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A new black hole is born. 4.0/5.0