Iowa grind unit Closet Witch set fire to societal, personal issues with smashing self-titled debut

You know sometimes when you put on a record for the first time and are blown through the walls by what’s coming into your ears and brain? It doesn’t happen all that often to me anymore just because of the deluge of music I deal with on a daily basis, but when it occurs, it’s profound and powerful.

I had really been looking forward to taking on the self-titled debut record from Iowa grind unit Closet Witch ever since Halo of Flies started talking about its imminent arrival. I had known the band from their scorching “Cokburner” single, and they have a few other EPs to their credit, but this full platter was what I really wanted to hear. And holy shit if it isn’t a molten dose of cathartic anger, fire-breathing emotion, and outright heaviness that hit all the right buttons. Themes of anger, despair, equality, healthcare trauma, gender, race, and other burning issues make up much of the thematic material, making these songs even more galvanizing and bloody important both personally and socially. The band—vocalist Mollie Piatetsky, guitarist Alex Crist, bassist Cory Peak, and drummer Royce Kurth—destroys your body and soul on these 13 songs, splattering their own blood, grabbing attention by force, and unleashing venom that many of us have in our own bodies, only we don’t have the ability to spit it back like this group. It also should be noted this record is one of the final releases by Halo of Flies, long an important outlet for underground metal and hardcore bands who found a wider audience and the chance to release their music. They’ll be sorely missed. There also are a bazillion other labels releasing this globally, so stay tuned for the perversely long list of links at the end.

“Blood Orange” opens in a total frenzy with wrenching shrieks from Piatetsky, as the cut mangles the senses, leading into “Moonstomp” and its relentless power. This one is absolute speed and chaos, spilling right into “Eyelids of Horus” that keeps the machine rolling violently. Vicious shrieks and drubbing playing destroy, while the band bashes bones and burns out. “Brother” reeks of danger by someone peeking around corners and into windows, while the band goes on a mathy storm, sending blinding terror into your face. Piatetsky’s raspy shouts maul, as the track goes into grinding hell and rips right into anguish. “It Doesn’t Feel Free” spits in the face of the idea that people aren’t judged by minority, gender, and societal status, as shocking blasts tear through guts, and Piatetsky’s yells are drowned in a noise bath. “Rule By Bacon” has Piatetsky wailing, “How can a gender make one lesser, and you’ve already got your cabinets filled with money,” as she blasts against pay inequality, as atmosphere mixes into the assault, and slow, pained howls pay the emotional toll.

“Spell of Giddiness” is a 37-second outburst, with images of blood and spilling intestines, as feedback and corrosive shouts punch the guts. “Wind Whispers” has crazed shouts, killer riffs chewing the flesh, and an absolute attack of punishment before a shocking, abrupt end. “Your Grace” kills you in 32 seconds, and it has Piatetsky defying the odds against her, vowing to overcome and be a difference maker. “Daylilies” is fast and blistering, as it feels like the floor is caving in as the band delivers the heavy goods and refuses to give you a chance to breathe. “Personal Machu Pichu” is emotional and personal, with cries to allow for a life one longs for despite the troubles it may cause others, screaming, “Please don’t condemn me for existing how I need.” The drums mash fingers, as the pace bludgeons and draws blood, while the song delivers outright violence. “Great River Medical Center” is a 40-second fireball that has a punk feel and smashes without mercy, leading to the 5:32 closer “Lost and Unidentified” that starts fast and eventually embraces melody you don’t expect. The track slows for somber moments amid the fire, as Piatetsky’s pain bleeds from her pores, and the music becomes an emotional caterwaul. Noise wells up, a thick haze spreads, and the riffs combine to create a machine-like attack that opens some sores and cauterizes others.

You’re not physically or mentally prepared to tangle with Closet Witch, but certainly give it a shot by diving headfirst into their ferocious debut self-titled full-length. This dangerous, panic-induced grind fury assaults from second one and doesn’t let up once for the next 13 songs. The record is a wake-up call to watch your ass, and if you contribute to any of the numerous problems the band steamrolls on this record, maybe look the fuck out. You could be next.

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