The press release accompanying this release states that The Black Swamp formed “for the love of the riff” – and judging by their latest EP, Witches, they fully understand the power of the riff. This four-track record is filled with sludge heaviness and a subtle sense of melody, with an ear for hooks that makes the EP addictive. Somewhere between Crowbar, Black Sabbath, and Mastodon, Witches is a rip-roaring feast of riff worship, as heavy and thick as the blackest sludge, whilst also possessing a blues-infused sense of groove and melody.
The opener, ‘Headless’, wastes no time getting going, with its introductory feedback lasting approximately 1 second before the song launches in to its central riff, making clear that The Black Swamp aren’t a bad who want to mess around or waste time. The melodies that see in second track ‘Event Horizon’ have that kind of Lynyrd Skynyrd sense of Southern groove and haze, and combined with the slightly rough vocals, it recalls bands like Alabama Thunderpussy; and when the dual-guitar melodies kick in around the 4:25 mark, the song sounds like the most vital, compelling thing you’re likely to hear this week. The whole EP is strong, but that moment in particular is superb.
The third track, ‘1487 CE’, is an interlude built around clean, shimmering guitars, which acts as a palate cleanser before the closing title track brings the heavy back in again. Moving with a stomp and heft, and with guitar melodies placed on top of the heavy riffs, the contrast makes the song feel like the heaviest one on the EP (which is saying quite something!), and sees the record out in compelling style.
Though The Black Swamp might not be doing anything ground-breaking on Witches, what they are doing is delivering a reminder that sometimes, all you want from metal is heavy, groove-filled riffs, pounding drums, and infectious melodies. It’s a reminder that metal doesn’t need to be fancy or flashy to be good, and that there’s plenty of value in taking things down to their basics, concentrating on writing strong riffs and catchy songs rather than any technical wizardry or avant garde structures. The band’s love of metal comes through loud and clear, and it’s hard to argue against riffs as good as these.
Witches is available digitally and on CD via Bandcamp.