Bell Witch, Aerial Ruin combine morbid tendencies, captivate on stunning ‘Stygian Bough Vol. 1’

Photo by Lauren Lamp

Things being as they are, it’s been really hard to get truly lost in art when there are so many other things going on to eat away at one’s time and instigate bouts of psychosis. That’s started to change for me a little bit as I’ve basically been forced to find ways to cope and to let my mind branch beyond whatever devastating and/or aggravating event is going on at the moment.

I guess it should not have really surprised me that “Stygian Bough Volume 1,” the first collaboration between doom duo Bell Witch and dark folk force Aerial Ruin would be one of the pieces of music that actually made me stop what I was doing and absorb every drop. We already knew the magic these two forces could conjure together, evidenced by their work together on portions of Bell Witch’s last full-length “Mirror Reaper.” But what Bell Witch’s Dylan Desmond and Jesse Schreibman created with Aerial Ruin’s Erik Moggridge there was a mere precursor to these five tracks that stretch over 64 mind-tingling minutes on this document. Having Moggridge a part of the entire proceedings, adding his guitar work and haunting singing, perfectly complements Bell Witch’s slow-bleeding style of doom and creates something that feels like it was always meant to be. It’s even better than I expected when scratching the record’s surface.

“The Bastard Wind” is the opener, a 19:09-long epic that runs the gamut of emotion. Acoustics wash in as Moggridge’s singing floats in and feels like a dark folk tributary as the track descends to the earth, and piano drips delicately. The pall is sorrowful and thick as the lead lines cut through and paves the way for the soloing quivering, setting your heart ticking as Schreibman’s growls unload and powder bones. The growls trade off with the clean singing as doom blasts and caves in walls, the leads twist, and the vocals fold into a funereal presence. Feedback flows as melodies gush and pour into final darkness. “Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)” is a healthy 12:55 with acoustics leading and solemn singing from Moggridge noting, “Heaven torn low and thrown in the fire,” repeatedly. Guitars flicker as the noise shakes, and the thick waves of synth send cosmic vibes and liquify your mind before fading into silence. Quiet notes echo and bleed back in while lush singing both soothes and entrances as Moggridge calls, “I  wouldn’t know your name unless you were the blackest of souls,” as the ceremony melds into the second part.

“Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)” brings volume back into play as it picks up where the first section left off, as the doom is delivered slowly but ominously. Clean singing rushes as the track moves into crushing darkness that bleeds pain, bringing mauling that forces you to lower your head. The trio continues the crunch as keys pour, the leads pierce, and the song blends into the void. “Prelude” is a beefier instrumental cut designed to set the stage for the final movement as winds and acoustics lead the way, organs glow, and gentle playing mixes into a fog as the volume builds to 19:21-long closer “The Unbodied Air” that drops heaviness right from the start. Clean singing and a rising prog front emerge before the melodies scream out, growls churn, and lasers penetrate borders. Mean shrieks pummel and loosen bricks, mashing its way toward dark buzzing and the more folkish elements taking hold again. The playing shakes at its core before the earth ruptures again, singing reaches out and envelops the heaving emotion, and immersive melodies burn their path to ash as organs squall before the music bows out.

Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin already proved their merit mixing their worlds together, but noting can quite prepare you for what they unfurl on “Stygian Bough Volume 1.” The playing and the expressions get inside your body and carve their way toward the darkest, most vulnerable sections of your being and leave them forever changed. This is a union that deserves more journeys—and the album title seems to hint this isn’t over—excursions with scopes we cannot even imagine right now.

For more on Bell Witch, go here:

For more on Aerial Ruin, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

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