In the renaissance of super-stylish, dense-as-you-like UK rock currently spearheaded by Nova Twins, Witch Fever’s debut full-length comes at an absolutely perfect time. Even just in the realms of building on steadily cranking buzz from their Reincarnate EP last year, Witch Fever are currently tapping into a wave of distinct, effortlessly cool bands that they could easily take the helm of, such is the extent that Congregation hits. Debuts seldom scream their mission statement as loud as this one does, nor do they feel as confident in doing it.
Then again, most don’t have a vocalist like Amy Walpole at their disposal, deliberately letting her hinges fray and rust in volleys of ire directed at the Charismatic Church in which she grew up. In conveying anger, there are no complaints to be had, largely a stake of how experiences with religion have been conflated with patriarchal abuse on I Saw You Dancing or 12. It’s desperate for catharsis in a way that’s always satisfying, in the screaming, uncensored, purposefully shaken expulsions of the oppressed batting back.
That’s entirely complementary with the power that Witch Fever naturally exude, a brew of punk fearlessness with the bravado and brawn of classic metal, held firm by a knack for titanic riffs and a head-caving bass tone. The general insidiousness the name implies isn’t skimped on either; I Saw You Dancing relishes in it the most in how it drags itself along, and that’s replicated on the grooves of Beauty And Grace and Sour and how darkly they burn. Honestly the vast majority of Congregation pulls off that atmosphere really well, produced to be heavier and meaner but with what’s almost a tacitly gothic feel beneath it all. More so, that’s in the mood and vibe than anything directly presented, but it’s still another layer that proves ever-fascinating to dig into.
It all adds up so supremely well, a genuinely terrific album that’s so in touch with modern rock and punk’s current wavelengths, but also its own desire to be distinct. Congregation does feel like its own artistic thing first and foremost, standing firm as a monolith to just how powerful Witch Fever are, and how effectively they’ve translated that already. They’re one of the prime names to look out for as leaders of the UK scene, and that isn’t up for debate. • LN
For fans of: Petrol Girls, Nova Twins, Saint Agnes
‘Congregation’ by Witch Fever is released on 21st October on Music For Nations.
The tech-metal outfit Exist Immortal have been gradually carving out their own space in the scene with their distinctive sound infused with metalcore and progressive elements. There’s a dynamic collection of releases already in their discography and the new self-titled album delivers an abundance of catchy chorus hooks and anthemic progressions.
Exist Immortal manage to strike a balance between crafting a full-on multi-textural sound, pop-hooks, utterly heavy guitars and intriguing progressive thrills. It’s no mean feat.The new album opens with the full throttle Behind The Eyes including guest Joe Rosser of Aliases (and formerly of SikTh), and the vocal styles bouncing off each other. Signal Fire featuring Moray Pringle brings a stunning elevated feel with anthemics, intricate instrumentation and soaring vocals. The addition of a solid breakdown adds an extra boost of power into the mix, even if it’s rather short and sweet. Tapping into other genres trap and R&B hints come through in Flare. Taking a turn into a different atmosphere compared to the previous track, these moody elements become intertwined with oriental melodies leading into a dramatic breakdown. There is a natural quality to Exist Immortal’s music. The song structures flow beautifully so that nothing feels forced or out of place, while interesting and unexpected parts continuously appear. Yours To Define journeys through an array of textures from intricate details to huge sounds. An acoustic guitar part into the bridge blends perfectly into the distortion, it’s a fantastic example of the band’s compositional and production quality.
Descending into heavier realms, Dilan Alves of Harbinger features in On The Wire. With trap cymbals returning, and prominent bass and intense guitars emphasising the darker tone to the track all while maintaining a catchy chorus and powerful vocal deliveries. The demonic harsh breakdown unleashes an epic heavy onslaught. Trapped Inside explodes into a high-speed assault of fast-paced rhythms. Weaving a contrapuntal web of guitar leads and rhythms, a huge sound is produced with so many details within the mix to discover on re-listens. The brass section in the outro adds another intriguing detail. Luke Griffins (of SHUSH and formerly of Acrania) performs on the album’s concluding track Casting Eyes, and the two vocal styles complement each other and the heavy instrumentation.
Exist Immortal is a fantastic listen. Each track introduces something new to the album while remaining cohesive and adhering to the band’s unique edge. The quality of this release is incredibly high in all areas. Exist Immortal are giving it their all in everything they do, and the new album is a fantastic demonstration of their talents. • HR
For fans of: Monuments, Circles, Volumes
‘Exist Immortal’ by Exist Immortal is released on 14th October on Seek & Strike.
A Death At Sea
You might remember San Lorenz under their old moniker SPQR, but with that term now co-opted and ruined by white nationalists (y’know, like they do with everything), the rebrand now serendipitously coincides with the release of this debut full-length. And this is a band who do deserve their place in the sun; brimming with art-rock and indie-pop quirk, San Lorenz have always felt like a cool band to root for. It’s especially good when their string of EPs only saw improve time after time, a trend pleasingly carried over to A Death At Sea as their most fulfilling work yet.
It’s also their most refined on top of that, more so in how there’s an added strength and how various elements are tied together and just work better overall, while still having some good variety. You’ll have songs like Accessory and Adjust The Angle that are all salt air and rushing waves morphed into pulsating indie-rock; meanwhile, there are sharper bass thunks on Dijiste Adios and winding, circular rhythms on The Disappearing that each strive for something more lucid and hypnotic. Other than the stiffer patter of the title track (also making it the one that connects the least), it’s all a natural, free-growing continuation of the artsy, self-contained indie that San Lorenz impressed with in the first place.
This is definitely a better version of it though, in that it’s much more fully-formed without losing the awkward charm that so regularly characterised them. Peter Harrison remains that epicentre for that, with a nasal vocal timbre that can be something of a barrier to real power, but it matches the wordier writing style that’s deliberately designed to feel uneasy and unstable. That’s meant as a compliment too; San Lorenz really excel among that more insular brand of indie-rock, and to see that translate so swiftly into this more robust form really does a lot of good work for them.
On top of that, the production is always well-balanced and does a lot to accentuate some pretty great vocal harmonies, and it just feels like each individual piece comes together really deftly for what’s ultimately just as much as the sum of its parts, at the very, very least. In what seems to improve more with every listen, it’s most likely even better than that, a more thoughtful album that trades substantial punch for something more long-term, and finds the rewards come rushing in. • LN
For fans of: Allusinlove, Loose Articles, Walt Disco
‘A Death At Sea’ by San Lorenz is released on 14th October on Nuthin Gud Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)