I was expecting a more doom-oriented effort on this one. Evil Witches opens up with a major chord and the odd pretty dissonance as the progression loops: reminds me of some of the work on Thrones And Dominions. A fuzzy tone that's thicker than on past releases; it holds me a lot more in that respect. There are more sections to songs on this one, the first track seemingly having three. The added variance is welcome as, despite how much I love total minimalism, it's always good to have something build or change upon a base.Open strings played to ring with slid notes are more common, too. Angels Blood is a Cure doing just that, as well as rising up an octave, something which give that fuzz and tone a little more drive and is just plain lovely. People have criticized The Father Of Witches for being sloppily played and poorly produced. While there is some truth in that at points, that criticism isn't applicable here. While the production is far from hi-fi it's appropriate to the overall approach to the music, so it's more beneficial than a hindrance. However, despite wanting the lone guitar approach, some songs do suffer from having nothing else - even a second guitar playing sympathetic melodies would work wonders.
Overall this release has a thicker sound and is something of a maturation of the style first presented in the debut.
The area of rock that straddles stoner, doom, country and psych rock is a small but very much loved genre. Influenced by the likes of Dylan Carlson (Earth) and Barn Owl, Goryl successfully wears these influences without sounding a clone. The Father Of Witches takes the approach of a lone guitar player and pushes it further: one or two riffs at most are explored to their very limit. The opening track seems to segue between the slow and sludgy riffs and open-string psych-country, arpeggiated chords rested on before moving back to power chords. Despite it being the weakest track on the album - having too thin a tone - it's still interesting, but the following tracks show how much a single instrument can really do. Cathedral Demons is seven minutes of one progression played continuously and is by far the best track on the album. The heavy, almost metal-without-distortion sound that Earth's Hex had on tracks like Railord is here; a punishing booming that won't intrude enough to detract from the otherwise quite relaxed atmosphere, rather giving it a menacing feeling. It's all very organic and if I were to see him play live, I wouldn't expect it to sound any different. It feels like a live recording even though it clearly isn't and this rawness, this pureness is what sets his work aside from other albums in the genre. There's a naturalness which allows me to properly absorb into it without the usual soundscapes and endless pedal boards which bands like Barn Owl rely on so much. Tracks like Old Demon Blues would improve greatly from simple percussion in places but this is forgivable because it's only really a problem when a choke or stop happens; when the drone is there as it usually is, it needs not anything but the guitar. Goryl certainly isn't for everyone, but if you like the sort of endless looping riffing that bands like Fulci do, this will tickle your fancy no end. It does mine.
A group involving the likes of Charlie Looker and Chuck Bettis, this is one I have had my eye on. Their quite obviously second release now opening with an almost free-jazz esqe drumming to minor 2nd chords played up and down the neck by Looker. As the drums begin to swell the guitar picks up with a more structured set of riffs, cymbals beginning to lightly follow forming an outfit more apposite to rock. This sort of mixed bag intro was tried when Steve Noble collaborated with Stephen O'Malley and I was quite ambivalent then. Mike Pride provides the drums on this (notably working with Boredoms) and he certainly has a sense of appropriate timing. And that, as well as the very idiosyncratic style Looker has, is what stops it sounding like your usual bedroom jam between-noise heads. Because the occasional pick-up of structure and coherence is teased but never totally established in the longer tracks. Ten minutes and they don't wear their welcome but it disappears without any sort of fade out or goodbye. Meandering too much. Following are screamed, moaned and whooped vocals over a very awkwardly timed riff and complementary drums, all now in time. Something of a dichotomy but the lax nature of the album opener gives a nice contextual nudge to the album. Your typical development on the riff occurs. Processed vocals become more atmospheric, weaving in and out of the now slowed guitar and drum punctuations; which is very much what these drums seem to be, at times. Punctuation marks rather than the text itself. Each track seems to bring in a new instrument. A saxophone comes into Ten (the third track - one would assume these were the works chosen to be put into the final album rather than an arbitrary series of numbers thrown around) and it starts to sound like a faster Ensemble Pearl mixed with John Zorn. Charlie needs to learn to play in a different style, that's for sure. There's having your own playing style and there's nailing and riveting yourself to it, refusing to budge and accommodating solely by working with other musicians. Sunn O))) are comparable in this sense in that without other collaborators they'd be in a lot of trouble right now. Saying that, there are a few moments where he will utilise simple muted strikes and very mellow feedback in conjunction with other instruments, forming an industrial mess of sound that really cheers me up. But then it's back to Extra Life/Psalm Zero/Time Of Orchids/every other project he's ever been involved in samey samey riffy GOD.
Onkyokei - a movement which utilizes silence in conjunction with timbre and texture to create sound studies - is probably an influence what with the aforementioned punctuation sometimes taking a more structured, subtle approach such as quiet parp of a horn surrounded by nothing else but ambient sound. And then a while later a crash into a more rock-style composition. A classical guitar even pops out and your usual structure-to-free improv fades through once again. The only reason this doesn't wear is because of the introduction of different techniques and instruments.
So why am I being so harsh on this? Well, I'm not entirely sure. Despite everything I've just said this is one of the best works Charlie's been involved in and despite it being a total cluster-fricative it's certainly not fair to level that criticism at it because that's actually what I like about it. Sure, the guitar playing is nothing new, the sax is nothing new, the drums are nothing new (are you seeing a pattern here?) but collectively every single musician has their own distinct sound that I actually feel somewhat connected to on a more personal level. I can feel these musicians. I can feel their distinct influences and styles merge into what is less an amalgamation of people into band or name but a circle of them sitting talking among one another as a collective. There is an understanding between them which is much more segregative than in other collaborations I've heard. And it works.
I don't do numerical ratings because I'm here to criticise/give my pompous opinion, not let it get summed up in a reductive number. So let me say that anyone who's a fan of either of the main duo, free jazz, experimental rock, or saxophones in general will like this, and that if I'm giving it a cruel final summation, it's certainly above average. So, time for links!