Bell Witch is a Doom Metal band from Seattle, Washington. Formed in 2010 by Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and Adrian Guerra (drums, vocals), the band plays slow, heavy, and extremely melancholic funeral doom. Their compositions tend to be long and minimalistic, with songs often lasting for upwards of 20 minutes and featuring long stretches of quiet ambience to punctuate the heavy sections. They also set themselves apart from their compatriots in the genre by eschewing guitar entirely, with Desmond serving as Lead Bassist instead. The band has so far released three albums and a demo tape, and has achieved significant underground success.
In 2016, Adrian Guerra was forced to leave the band due to his increasingly severe alcoholism, and with his blessing was replaced by his housemate, Jesse Shreibman, formerly of the grindcore band Transient. Shortly after this, Guerra sadly passed away in his home at the age of 35. Though Desmond and Shreibman had serious doubts about continuing the band after Guerra's death, they decided to continue on, recording a a new album and dedicating it to his memory. The album, entitled Mirror Reaper, consists of a single 83 minute long song, and was released on October 20th, 2017.
- Demo (2011)
- Longing (2012)
- Four Phantoms (2015)
- Mirror Reaper (2017)
- Stygian Bough (2020) (Collaboration with Aerial Ruin)
- Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals)
- Jesse Shreibman (drums, organ, vocals)
- Erik Moggridge (guest vocals)
- Adrian Guerra (drums, vocals, passed 2016)
Bell Witch provides examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Adrian Guerra had to leave the band primarily due to this, and it may have been a factor in his untimely passing.
- All Drummers Are Animals: Averted by both Guerra and Shreibman. This being doom metal, there wasn't really much room for this to begin with.
- The Anti-Nihilist: The band members appear to be this, and it shows in their music. Their music is exactly as bleak and soul crushing as you'd expect a funeral doom band to be, but there's an underlying sense of hope in it as well.
- Bald of Awesome: Jesse Shreibman.
- Boléro Effect: Used very often whenever the band goes into a quieter section.
- Book-Ends: "Mirror Reaper" ends with a reprise of the album's first heavy section, followed by a quiet, peaceful outro.
- Breather Episode: "Beneath the Mask" on Longing, which features no drums at all, consisting of isolated bass chords and a sample from the film version of Masque of the Red Death. Mirror Reaper also has a few very quiet sections, the longest lasting for almost 10 minutes.
- Careful with That Axe: Quite frequently. Special mention goes to the hellish shrieks at the beginning of "Rows (Of Endless Waves)".
- Concept Album: Four Phantoms has a loose concept revolving around the four elements as bringers of death, and Mirror Reaper is a sort of musical memorial to Adrian Guerra.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The extremely impressive cover art of Mirror Reaper, and the covers of Longing and Four Phantoms to a lesser extent.
- Doom Metal: Currently one of the most popular bands in the funeral doom genre.
- Drone of Dread: "Bails (Of Flesh)" ends with an extended section of Sunn O))) style droning.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: Many of their songs feature this, particularly "Bails (Of Flesh)" and "Mirror Reaper", the latter of which has 7 full minutes of music before the vocals enter.
- Epic Rocking: Most of Bell Witch's songs are very long, generally being 10-20 minutes each, but Mirror Reaper takes this Up to Eleven even for funeral doom, being a single song clocking in at 83 minutes and 15 seconds, making it quite possibly one of the longest songs in the entire genre of metal. This was largely accidental on the band's part, as most of it evolved out of lengthy jam sessions and they weren't even aware of how long the song was until they already had about an hour of music recorded. They also considered splitting the album into multiple shorter tracks for greater ease of listening, but decided this would do a disservice to the piece as a whole.
- Fading into the Next Song: All of the songs on Four Phantoms use this.
- Grief Song: "Mirror Reaper" may well be the most epic grief song ever recorded. Especially notable in that the album actually features a posthumous appearance from the person it's mourning, in the form of unused vocals tracks Adrian originally recorded for Four Phantoms. His contribution is credited as "The Words of the Dead" in the album's liner notes. It should be noted that work on the album was already well underway by the time of Guerra's passing, but after he died the record took on a new level of meaning as a tribute to him.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: Even the clean vocals are hard to make out most of the time.
- In the Hood: Longing features a hooded wraith on its cover.
- Lead Bassist: Dylan Desmond.
- Long Title: Four Phantoms features such catchy titles as "Suffocation, a Burial: I - Awoken (Breathing Teeth)" and "Suffocation, a Drowning: II - Somniloquy (The Distance of Forever)".
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: They can go as high as a 10, though the quieter sections can reach as low as a 1.
- Nobody Loves the Bassist: Inverted. The band lacks a guitarist.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Dylan Desmond has described the band's songs as "ghost stories", and most of their music seems to revolve around the idea of spirits caught in purgatory, unable to move on to the next life and accept their deaths.
- Recurring Riff: "Beneath the Mask" and "Outro" both feature the same chord progression. "Mirror Reaper" also has a few of these throughout, most notably the two note riff that begins and ends the album.
- Sampling: "Beneath the Mask" uses a sample from The Masque of the Red Death to haunting effect.
- Signature Style: Glacially slow pacing, melodic leads mixed with harsh doom riffs, and a mixture of harsh growls and ethereal, mournful cleans for vocals.
- Soprano and Gravel: Their vocals alternate between harsh death growls and soft, clean vocals, which many reviewers have compared to monastic chants. Generally, Dylan does the cleans while Jesse does the harsh vocals.
- The Stoic: Both band members, though Jesse is known to possess an intense Death Glare when playing live.
- Subdued Section: Almost all of their songs have one. In general, they prefer to have long stretches of quiet to break up the head crushing metal.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Beneath the Mask".
- True Companions: Dylan and Adrian, arguably Jesse as well. Even Adrian's departure was in no bad blood either and he gave his blessing for Jesse to join after he departed. When Adrian passed, Jesse and Dylan felt the best way to honor Adrian was record Mirror Reaper as a tribute to him and even use the unused vocal tracks Adrian recorded during the Four Phantoms sessions.
- Vocal Tag Team: Both members supply vocals.
- "Every man creates his own god
Wearing them all
Beneath the mask"