I often find myself in a position of having to describe Bell Witch to locals who do not skew towards ‘heavy’music on the regular. After finding myself in this scenario for the fourth or fifth time, the two-word elevator pitch for the band that keeps coming out of my mouth is ‘Lullaby Doom’. That might read like a backhanded compliment on paper, but no two words better describe the effects of the tapped bass melodies and deep bellows that Bell Witch use to blanket their audiences, most especially on their latest opus, Four Phantoms.
This album is an effective moment of two musicians nestling deep into their own sonic territory. Not that their 2011 debut, ‘Longing,’ wasn’t a very solid piece of music, but it would appear that in the four years (coincidence?) since, bassist Dylan Desmond and drummer Adrian Guerra have mapped out several dense underworlds to mine in the name of musical exploration. Steeped in a conceptual aesthetic of ever enduring punishment, Four Phantoms explores extreme pain and regret in four movements.
Drifting through each of the four elements, the thoroughly constructed titles of the songs provide the listener a framework for understanding; these dirges are “musically and lyrically…stories from [a] particular ghost suffering a continuous death from the respected element,” as Desmond explained in a recent interview with Pitchfork editor Brandon Stosuy.
Being so deeply entrenched in exploring the anguish of the eponymous phantoms, Bell Witch is in no rush to tell their stories. Four Phantoms is a glacially blissful record, each lingering bass note or extended scream is a meditative moment, time for the listener to dwell on their own grievances or to just close their own eyes and be consumed in the visions the band has meticulously prepared for them.