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Stonewitch : The Cross Of Doom

For a first release, this 2016 outing by France's Stonewitch carves a pretty decent Trad marker.

Out of western France comes Stonewitch, with no specific goal save to play Doom the old school way. Right from the first riff, the usual suspects are summoned: Black Sabbath and Pentagram. But what makes Stonewitch stand out of the crowd is their willingness to use a pure Blues, and sometimes Jazz (like on the wicked 'Beyond The Sharp Vine'), background. Actually, the band don't hesitate in also digging some late '60s Rock vibes ('Eerie Valley Of The Crimson Planet'), making Stonewitch more interesting than the horde of bands cloning the '70s sound because they wish they'd been born earlier rather than too late.

Still, despite these influences, the general shape is firmly rooted in the heaviest Traditional Doom there is ('Unearthed' is a worthy comparison to some of the best tracks by The Bottle Doom Lazy Band). The tempo is generally slow and full of grooves, sometimes bordering on Stoner territories. When it comes to the vocal departement, Serge Usson reminds me of a more aggressive version of Bottle Ben (from The Bottle Doom Lazy Band), like on the massive NWOBHM-influenced beast that is 'Holy Smoke'. The songs are quite long, but never boring, each containing enough twists and hooks keeping the listener in line.

In many ways, 'The Cross Of Doom' reminds me of the semi-flawed experience that was 'In The Electric Mist' by Godsend. The main difference being that the Frenchmen simply succeed here, where the Norwegian band nearly completely failed. The more 'mainstream' Rock influences are better incorporated in each track, there's just one short filler (their version of the classic track 'Sign Of The Wolf', which is just too faithful to the original one to be of any real interest) and every track show that Stonewitch know exactly where they want to go and how to get to that point. They use every ressource at their disposition to deliver a pleasant listening experience.

Fans of the proto-Metal style (like Blue Cheer), of the heaviest side of Psychedelia (like Iron Butterfly) or of the British Blues Boom bands (mostly Cream or The Yardbirds) will find everything needed to slake their thirst in 'The Cross Of Doom', and the same can be said for the Black Sabbath/Pentagram addicts. For a first release, Stonewitch carve their mark quite well and leave me eager to see what they'll do next.

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Reviewer's rating: 7/10


Tracklist :
1. Eerie Valley Of The Crimson Planet
2. Beyond The Sharp Vine
3. Unearthed (Foes & Woes)
4. Holy Smoke
5. Sign Of The Wolf (Pentagram cover)
6. The Cross Of Doom

Duration : Approx. 39 minutes

Visit the Stonewitch bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-10-22 by Laurent Lignon
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