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There are many words one could use to describe the sound produced by Seattle based "funeral" doom metal two-piece, Bell Witch. Monolithic, dripping, oppressive, haunting, all of these would suffice and retrospectively carry throughout the band's early efforts and into 2015's Four Phantoms album, but with Mirror Reaper they've hit an entirely new level and pushed their sound to new, lofty heights.
Released on Profound Lore Records, Mirror Reaper is huge in every sense of the word, rather than an album split into individual tracks, the whole thing is one long track that weighs in at 83 minutes. On vinyl, this beast is split across two double-sided discs.
The project sees the band build on the blueprint they laid out with their earlier releases and solidifies their position as one of the most atmospheric, exciting and abstract bands on the metal circuit at the moment.
The band upon release confirmed the name Mirror Reaper was intended to indicate the song to be its own reflection and also in part a homage to the Hermetic axiom "As Above, So Below," written as two sides to form one whole when complete.
The weight behind Mirror Reaper is immense; it's chilling and foreboding from the outset. Bassist and band lead Dylan Desmond proves he doesn't need anything other than a bass guitar to produce some truly haunting sounds that also posses a deep sadness buried within them.
This sadness one feels when listening is in part due to the fact that former drummer Adrian Guerra passed away during the writing but before the final recording of the album. His vocals even feature on the record and were labelled "voices of the dead" in a bleak foreshadowing.
On the subject of the track's vocals, not only does the track feature the late Guerra and the aforementioned lead from Dyland Desmond, with current drummer Jesse Shreibman also contributing, but Erik Moggridge of Aerial Ruin is also featured on the record. The four vocal styles incorporate growls, screams and harmonies creating an incredibly diverse sound.
As new drummer Shreibman accompanies Dylan on this outing and in addition to the solemn overtones and vocals, the pair guide you through a reverb-heavy, deeply atmospheric yet at the same time therapeutic doom metal journey. They explore sounds that convey their feelings on the subject matter, they take you to places you didn't know a metal record could reach and to listen to the album in one sitting is truly an experience.
The more immersed you get with this album the better the outcome, listening to it conventionally is fine but a good pair of headphones to isolate oneself will only increase that quality and at the risk of sounding like a total elitist, listening on vinyl with headphones is the only way to reach the apex of this record's power. There is a reason so much effort went into this record and the pay off is there if you're willing to put the time in to appreciate it.
It's heavy, that's for sure but it's heavy in a very different way to what one might expect. It really speaks for itself but to try and describe it I'd compare it to the weight of water rather than of sludge which the band has been attributed to in the past. Mirror Reaper is more than just a record or an experiment, it's a statement, a memorial and a damn fine example of a band pushing the limits of a widely under-represented genre.
In addition, a side note to point out is the album's cover artwork which is just screaming out to be mentioned: a truly gorgeous piece created by artist Mariusz Lewandowski. The full image is available online and well worth looking at.