|4.4 (2 votes):|
After the yawn-inducing year of 2019, I was looking towards 2020 to deliver more quality albums than its vapid predecessor. Not only has 2020 delivered (so far), but it has brought unto my attention, potential album of the year material: Witch Taint’s Sons of Midwestern Darkness. To have an album that solidifies itself as number one material, relatively early into the year, is no easy feat and a testament to its greatness. Even more surprising, Witch Taint is a brand-new contender in the realm of heavy metal from Gary, Indiana, with this being their debut album. No demo, EP, or split, just a few singles and BOOM: a five out of five album. But enough fellating of unimportant matters such as seniority or geographic location, let me put into words why this album is so darn good.
To begin with, I believe it appropriate to establish what initially grabbed my attention regarding this album: it’s style and genre. Stylistically, I cannot recall any other metal band or song that sounds like the style here. Witch Taint plays a near flawless blend of traditional heavy metal, black metal, rock and roll, punk, while also experimenting/parodying other styles more overtly on certain tracks. You’ll get tracks like Sons of Satan or Viking Heaven, that flirt with doom and viking metal respectively, then you’ll get tracks like Changes (a little less time for Satan) which is a straight up rock/power ballad. However, this all pales in comparison to the track, humorously entitled Ready for Lvv, which alternates between moshing blackened punk and soul/disco rock, complete with a porn groove. While all these mashups between genres may seem jarring, they’re executed so well that the variety is welcomed. For the most part, nothing sounds out of place, or plucked from another album. Witch Taint puts a unique spin on all these genres and adds a level of charm to them that I can’t help but welcome. However, there are moments that pull me out of the album, but I’ll comment more on that later.
To prop up this stylistic choice of metal, rock and punk even higher are the performances and writing featured here. Matthias and Lance do an excellent job of alternating their vocal styles, guitar playing and all-around tone throughout the album. Matthias not only has an excellent voice for delivering his raspy black metal vocals but has an excellent one for delivering heavy metal and rock chants and cleans as well. His vocal range is not only useful for variety but helps establish mood in certain tracks as well. Lance’s sneering vocals are also entertaining as well, and his cleans help contribute to the cheesiness that is Ready for Lvv, as well as other tracks. Of course, it would be a crime not to mention the amazing backing vocalists that bring a sense of power to all the choruses. The only vocals I’m not overtly fond with are Jennifer Valle’s. She’s okay when working as a backing vocalist, but her voice just isn’t there for me and that becomes blindingly noticeable on her lead track The Dark Way, the lowest point in the album. While every musical track is on a scale from perfect to great, this one is just boring. To her credit though, her performance is fine, it’s just the insipid parody of gothic darkwave that kills my energy and my attention on the track. Thankfully, this is the album’s only musical blunder. Notice how I included the qualifier of musical there? Don’t worry, I’ll get there, just getting through what I love about the album first.
Instrumentally, everything is top-notch. Not only does everything sound amazing but it’s balanced as well, and the inclusion of miscellaneous instruments tickles me pink. The touches of tambourines, claps, keyboards, sitar, etc. all bring a smile to my face, and really help the album stand out. The bass can be maddeningly catchy, something I don’t hear much of in metal. The fact that the bass sells tracks like Death to Death Metal, one of the best tracks by the way, is incredible to me. And what a great track to sell by the way. The riffs are melodic and memorable, the chorus is one to rally behind and it’s a perfect track to exemplify what this band is about, musically and lyrically. Like this song, most of the tracks off this album will have your head nodding or banging at various speeds and tempos. In order to curb me from explaining each and every single track further, I’ll summarize that the first half of this album is memorable in their own rites and have something catchy about them. Especially the choruses, good golly, does this album have amazing choruses.
Now for the not so desirable. Lyrically and visually, Witch Taint likes to parody extreme metal acts and their craze to be brutal, extreme, edgy, and so on and so forth. So much so, that the album has a fixation on this theme. Now that’s all fine in concept, if it’s executed well but unfortunately, it’s not done that well here. Interspersed throughout the album are several interludes that I was alluding to earlier about flow and jarring matters and whatnot. If you count the intro and conclusion, there are 5 tracks that act as skits to flex the band’s comedy without music. It mostly centers around the obsession of acting dark and brooding, but instead acting like a couple of schlubs when it comes to the matter. There’s potential sure, but they just aren’t all that funny, they don’t sound that great and break up the flow of the album. The worst offender is one that isn’t even an interlude, but a bit in Sons of Satan, where they pause the music to have a decently funny (although more entertaining with the music video) skit, essentially interrupting the song to try to be funny. It’s hard to ignore but doesn’t ruin the song, just brings it down a tad. A better example of this would be another parody band GWAR, where they work the skit into the song like Slaughterama, or wait till the end of the song like Where is Zog? While I find the lyrics funnier than the skits at times, they work on a higher level than humor because they’re a part of the structure and fit well with everything working in tandem. To be fair, they aren’t that long and set up the tracks that follow them, but I’d prefer it if they were just part of the next song, rather their own track. It comes across as filler, jacking up the track count to 17 and the run time to 50 minutes. It’s a fantastic 50 minutes, but sometimes less is more. While the comedy isn’t my cup of tea, it still tickles me here and there. It’s a thankfully apolitical parody of black metal aesthetics and has some cute moments, like the all glorious Death to Death Metal. It’s something to refine and hone, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Sons of Midwestern Darkness, what else is there to say. This album has so much going for it. A unique style and sound, amazing performances around the table, incredible songs, and riffs and solos memorable enough to have me humming them for days on end. Sure, the comedy is a bit iffy, but like any amazing album, its shortcomings are drastically outnumbered by the positives. I bought this within two weeks of it hitting my wish list, which is an insane amount of turnover for album purchases for myself. This stuff right here is album of the year material, and all before summer no less. Are you ready to black metal? You’d better be!
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