Witch

support Lucid Grave
author AP date 08/08/22 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

It has been a while since I did a multi-day stint of concerts, but the prospect of getting to see genuine rock music icons — Jay Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. and Kyle Thomas aka. King Tuff from Ty Segall’s live band The Muggers — playing with their cult stoner rock outfit Witch in Denmark for the first time ever was just too good of an opportunity to pass on. This sentiment seems to be shared by plenty of others too, as the show looks to be all but sold out… which in turn means that the festivities are going to be boiling hot, given the glorious summer weather outside. Personally, I’ve always felt that stoner music is best experienced in intense heat, as it lends these performances a kind of delirious atmosphere that is perfect for the genre. With my clothes already damp thus, I muscle my way to near the front to catch the best glimpse of tonight’s support act, the local psychedelic doom metal crew Lucid Grave, who are just finishing up their opening track “Cosmic Mountain” off its namesake album, which came out earlier this summer.

Lucid Grave

I’m not gonna lie — the studio rendition of “Cosmic Mountain” failed to woo me on the initial spin, with the melodramatic howling of vocalist Malene Pedersen turning me off something fierce. But here in the live setting, the Copenhagen-based quintet sounds remarkably different, none more so than Pedersen herself. Her voice is more strained and carries a harsher tone than on record, while the rest of the four musicians are generating a lot more oomph also. Songs like “I Feel the Fire” are rendered into dense and heavy doom trips by the venue’s high grade sound system, and further accentuated by Pedersen’s spellbinding performance. She has shunned the stage, and is engaged in an evocative and borderline sensual dance on the floor, her bare feet and intense gesticulations giving her a shamanic appearance. Behind her, the four other musicians — guitarists Casper Nilsson & Kriller Andersen, drummer Jon Fick and bassist Alex Ørsted — have a less poignant demeanour, often appearing only as silhouettes within the shroomy lighting as they send cascades of reverberating melodies and solos reverberating through the room. And as the concert draws to a conclusion after some 35 minutes, I can feel myself converting into a fan, thinking I must have missed something the first time I listened to “Cosmic Mountain”. It has been put onto my 2022 playlist again, and hopefully I can find the same sort of magic on it as I have at the band’s concert here tonight.

7

Witch

When the band walks onto the stage, it turns out that Mascis is, in fact, not with them on this tour, and that he has been substituted for Earthless' Mario Rubalcaba — a slight upset rendered not disappointing given the sheer worthiness of the replacement. Witch kick things off rather unceremoniously, casually walking onto the stage and then unloading their first package of sizzling stoner riffs without any unnecessary frills or introductions. That is also the best way to describe the quartet’s performance, which offers little by way of a strong visual aesthetic, and is primarily focused on the strength and diversity of the setlist for winning people over. The four musicians nonetheless handle themselves with the confidence of veterans, striking each instrument with purpose and zeal as they traverse through one intoxicating groove, spacey melody and psychedelic solo feast after the other, varying the dynamics just often enough to keep the audience on its toes. There are bits of classic doom, touches of heritage rock in the vein of Kadavar (complete with distinctive, megaphonic vocals), some dark alt-country infusions with prairie howl guitar leads, and even a sprinkle of hardcore punk to immerse oneself in during the 60 minutes that the concert lasts. But although Witch wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, both the variety of their repertoire and their penchant for taking the inspirations and distilling them into a sound that is still very much their own, ensure that the quartet is far from a dime-a-dozen stoner rock band — and the incessant headbanging and loud cheering that accompanies every song is a testimony to their proficiency. The wheel may not have been reinvented here tonight, but if you came to Stengade looking for a rock solid helping of groovy and trippy stoner rock, you cannot have gone home disappointed.

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