Gospel of the Witches – Salem’s Wounds (Century Media)Sunday, 1st March 2015
For those unfamiliar with the name, Karyn Crisis was a bit of a cult figure of the NY hardcore and metal scene in the ‘90s for her work fronting the band Crisis. With the band dissolving in the early 2000s, the metal world hadn’t seen much of Karyn Crisis outside of her somewhat recent work with husband Davide Tiso in Ephel Duath. But after a successful Kickstarter campaign and subsequent signing to Century Media, she’s back and she has brought a number of heavy hitters along with her. Playing alongside Karyn on Salem’s Wounds includes Tiso, Charlie Schmid, Mike Hill (Tombs), and Ross Dolan (Immolation).
While Gospel of the Witches does carry some of the essence from Ephel Duath, this is a unique album that has plenty of individual flair. Always deliberated and methodically paced, this isn’t an album that’s going to bludgeon you to death so much as intoxicate you with its dark and occult-ish melodies. From almost tribal drumming among chants to start off “Father” to the enchanting melodies of “The Alchemist” to the electronic ambience of “The Secret,” there is never a dull moment here despite the hour-long runtime. The switch-ups run within tracks as well, with the title track opening up with an ominous, almost jazzy feel before ratcheting up the heaviness at the middle of the track.
It goes without mention that Karyn Crisis’ vocal performance is nothing less than stunning. Every bit the vocal chameleon, she pushes her unique voice in even more directions here that are both angelic and demonic. One of the album’s finest treats though is the harmonizing of Ross Dolan’s iconic roars with Karyn’s vocal palette, both in the heavier (“The Sword + the Stone”) and the more melodic (“Mother”) end. The combination of otherworldly melodies and the varied vocal approach of closer “The Ascent” make it a definitive standout.
An album that truly grows with each listen, there is not much to fault with Salem’s Wounds. Equally eerie and ethereal, it’s bound to keep you enticed and wondering what will turn up around each corner. And as a fresh start for Karyn Crisis, let’s hope this is a project that will allow us to hear more of her for the years to come.