Rising French doom trio WITCHORIOUS reveal themselves with a classy debut LP.

Written by Album Review, Chronique

If there is one genre that is easily stuck in clichés and niche of influences, it has to be occult doom. That being said, we regularly see newcomers who offer a more personal version of this well-known recipe. What if Witchorious were our very own Dopelord? Or would they rather be our Yob? Because upon closer inspection, there is much more to scrutinize from the Parisian combo than conventional sanitized doom.

Witchorious sows trouble and even trolls us a little with this eponymous debut. Starting from the neat but conventional artwork, and based upon the band name, we are tempted to pigeonhole them as yet another Witchcraft ripoff, expecting polished occult rock without an ounce of originality. And this is perhaps their first stroke of genius: underneath the appearances, we discover a completely different (and wild) beast. The band name and artwork’s sole purpose is to lure us into listening to them, to better tear our throats with loud shouted vocals and angry riffs.

Witchorious has this connection with occult doom and they don’t hide it: fans of the genre will enjoy the melodic singing, heavy chords and that round rendering that we all love. But by offering sludge and even noise-sounding spitted vocals and ensuring a tense buildup upon each riff (something we rarely find in doom), the band offers us a fairly clever and rarely-heard mix. Imagine if Monolord and Crowbar had messed with Coven. It’s surprising enough to catch the attention! But in my opinion, their clever move lays in that this is not a simple stylistic effect: it is a well-thought identity that was already hinted at on their “The Haunted Tapes” debut EP back in 2020.

On the vocals side of things, guitarist Antoine’s raspy or shouted vocals lead the way, while bassist Lucie’s melodic backing vocals on choruses (“Catharsis”) anchor Witchorious in the occult rock genre. When she takes on vocal duties on “Eternal Night”, it brings an almost Chelsea Wolfian dimension to their music. And I must admit that the tremolo-laden guitar brings a murky atmosphere that fits well. And come on, I must mention all the noisy and dissonant elements that unfold on “Sanctuaire” — a total heart-stopper!

Production-wise, the mixing is never overkill, neither too frontal nor too powerful: something that might confuse those accustomed to reverb-drenched vocals and overwhelming drums. As for the bass, it benefits from a more subtle and rounded treatment (let’s admit that stonerheads are addicted to fuzzed-out and down-tuned bass tones), being more restrained but serving the song so much better. If I had to be picky, I’d say that the album would have been further enhanced by a few cuts. (This did not prevent me from playing on repeat bonus track “Why” although it clocks in at 7 minutes 20).

To conclude, Witchorious proves to us that hard work pays off and that amid the army of clones, authenticity and originality remain the most attractive qualities. You don’t need to release your album on a major American label or go on tour with Electric Wizard for everyone to recognize your talent. It only takes a great sonic identity and music that grab your guts. Long live Witchorious, French doom definitely has a bright future.

ARTIST: Witchorious
ALBUM: Witchorious
GENRE: Occult noisy doom
RELEASED: 16 February 2024
LABEL: Argonauta Records

Last modified: 3 March 2024