Arcanum is the latest outing from Staffordshire-based (mostly-) instrumental doomsters Space Witch. Clocking in at a mighty 44 minutes sprawled across just 4 tracks, Space Witch are clearly no strangers to writing long, long tracks.
‘Cosmonoid’ gets things moving, albeit at a pace slower than the average glacier. It’s slow, almost mournful to begin with, melody carried by the guitars and occasionally keys. We don’t actually see a change of pace until nearly 10 minutes into its 15 minute duration where things get a bit more speedy; the snare is skittering, almost breaking out of time with the music before pulling back in, only to repeat the pattern again. It’s some of, if not the, most interesting drum work on the record. The band toy with choral effects a couple of times during, lending an almost grandiose effect but it’s lost somewhat and feels a little out of place.
‘Astro Genocide’ follows and is actually the shortest track on the album, clocking in at a measly 6 minutes and 5 seconds and feature vocals, albeit shouts, for the first time. It doesn’t stray far from the pace set by ‘Cosmonoid’, or indeed the rest of the album, being a mostly mid-paced affair of repeated riffs and space-y electronica.
Space Witch don’t stray far from the well-trodden stoner doom path; there isn’t much in the way of variation amongst songs and the only two major experiments, choirs in ‘Cosmonoid’ and a very brief moment of a distorted brass section in ‘Hex Solaris’, feel thrown in as if taking the approach that interspersing new noises at random can help to break up the overall monotony. The band seems to do two things well; slow, slow riffs that move with all the urgency of a sloth, and equally slow meandering passages where it feels as if some new idea might be introduced, only for said idea to be promptly discarded in favour of just taking what was already happening and adding distortion and fuzz.
Closer ‘Battle Hag’ sounds nothing like a battle, not bothering to really pick itself up until the 3.50 mark, at which point things are already growing stale. It’s possibly the most interesting track of the whole album, if only because the band manage to remember to change ideas before the listener dozes off.
Despite the utterly repetitive songwriting and riffs that feel staler than bread by the time they swap out, Arcanum does have an excellent production. It feels warm, with every instrument audible; the bass feels crisp and clear and despite all the fuzz riffs can be clearly distinguished on the guitar, and the drums don’t overpower – everything has its place and sounds like it should be there. Space Witch show clear promise but there is a clear lack of ability to self-edit and Arcanum really overstays its welcome. At 44 minutes, with the longest track taking up an entire third of the runtime, it certainly feels that not only could ‘Cosmonoid’ stand to lose a few minutes but so could the rest of the album to avoid fatigue setting in.
Arcanum isn’t bad; it shows promise and clear talent, and without doing anything too flashy. Unfortunately, it’s overlong and doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd in what is becoming, a very, very crowded scene.