Devil’s Witches - Velvet Magic

Devil’s Witches Velvet Magic cover
Devil’s Witches
Velvet Magic
Independent Release
Average: 5 (1 vote)
Solo forays are all the rage these days, be they traditional heavy metal ventures such as Ezra Brooks and Haunt or occult themed doom in the likes of Bloody Hammers and Hour of 13. Well, my fellow chthonic cronies, in regards to the latter genre I’ve chanced upon the new ghoul on the block, namely Glasgow, Scotland’s Devil’s Witches, the brainchild of a certain James Abilene, and its shockingly refreshing, if not spooky, full-length debut, “Velvet Magic”, released independently on bandcamp as well as on 12" vinyl under Cursed Tongue Records, by all accounts a fairly nascent label, which also boasts of unearthing the eerily groovy yet self-deprecating Mephistofeles.
Comprised of nine infernal grippers – two of which are instrumentals – totalling forty fun-filled minutes “Velvet Magic” floored me on first listen as it wickedly incorporates the haunting psychedelic flair and sinister pizzazz of Demon Eye, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Psychedelic Witchcraft and Ruby the Hatchet with a soupçon of Type O Negative’s freedom instilling ribald coolness. From weird fangled drum beats to fuzzy as fuck distorted vocals, bass and guitars with festively creepy keyboards vested within, this release has it all – even the tempos gratifyingly switch from languid escalations to hard-driving dirges, the lot of it garnished with spectacular, vintage sounding pentatonic leads which take the road less traveled in terms of phrasing, punctuation and timing. To wit, at 02:33 on opener “Apache Snow” the rhythm guitars abruptly exit the stage, thus allowing Abilene to work his prestidigitator magic in the form of a lightly tapping, off-kilter drum beat and rather conservative but highly atmospheric solo enhanced by kaleidoscopic keys and slowly incepting, ruminating bass line.
While the satyric lyrics to “Voodoo Woman” and “The Mountain of the Devil’s Witch” readily bring to mind Type O Negative’s “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” or “Christian Woman” the enchanting and warped “Apache Snow” and “Black Cauldron” liberally hem and haw about war and drug use in a similar vein as Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General albeit with more of an original, twisted bent. Dig the wacky middle verses to opener “Apache Snow”:
“Store bought flag and a virgin flak
Tranquillisers and a canteen flask
Heroin and Koon Sa smoke
Light up the village and grab a coke
Morphine, comic books and bayonets
And my girlfriends stockings tied around my neck
VC thumb and some M & Ms
Concrete drop you're fucking shot in the head”
Abilene’s “wasted” and wan vocal delivery/cadence is unlike anything I’ve heard. I have to say, I was blown away when I realized Devil’s Witches is a one-man affair. While the material is much heavier than outright “heavy psych” rock such as “Psychedelic Witchcraft”, “Ruby the Hatchet” or “Black Road”, it’s imbued with a flowing heavy hitting grace, however dark. I mean, check out the title track’s hard-driving and stoic opening guitar riff for ample confirmation... his vox here echo with a strange, far-off resonance akin to Seals and Croft’s “Summer Breeze”. “Velvet Magic” proper is also the one track where you don’t need the lyric sheet as he sounds that much more concise and composed albeit diabolically wistful as usual.
More brooding, classic “doom” metal graveyard groovers include “Motorpsycho” and seven minute long “Mountain of the Devil’s Witch”, on which at point Abilene evokes a pencil-neck, spat and waist coast wearing Old West saloon pianist as he animatedly pounds away at a series of sliding keys prior to a riveting, rock and sock ‘em guitar riff and lewd sounding Texas blues solo. A couple token instrumentals in “Pornodelic Opium Dreams”(!) and “Jupiter Kush” spectacularly compliment this affair; while the shorter, wonkier latter one is nothing to shake a goat’s bell at, the former is mesmerizing in its 1960s psychedelia. Consisting exclusively of lazy drum beats and flamboyant yet eldritch keys, it also features all the blips, scratches and imperfections you’d expect from an old, beaten up analog recording. Oh, and let’s not forget its kooky xylophone section – or is it glockenspiel? Anyhow, it sort of sounds like the type of hokey, B-Horror sample Necro is so found of utilizing – definitely a highlight. Also, the track placement overall is superb. I love the way the scary, vampire-esque revolving riff to “Voodoo Woman” immediately follows said vocal-free arrangement; the two side by side, including this last’s reverb/wah laden lead guitar and unorthodox, flippant drum pattern gives off a truly foreboding vibe, especially three minutes in when the rhythm guitar swells up like the candy house witch fattening Hansel & Gretel.
Granted, the one track I care less for is the French sung, Cyrano de Bergerac evoking “Requiem pour un Vampire”; mind you, I wouldn’t quite lop it off as its placid Night – “Coin in a Fountain”, Leonard Cohen sounding cabaret swing is actually a fitting end to an otherwise supernaturally jarring production. You know, all things considered – and no disrespect to the Brits of course – this feels like the album Electric Wizard has been striving to churn out since reaching its apotheosis with “Dopethrone” back in 2000. I’m no warlock, so it’s out of my hands but I don’t think appealing to the Devil’s Witches to transpire and turn “Velvet Magic” into the official soundtrack to American Horror Story’s Season 3: Coven or Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem is too much to ask for!

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