Reviewed: October 2019
Released: 2019 Aural Music
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Just in time for Halloween, the second album from Karyn Crisis Gospel Of The Witches arrives to make a fitting soundtrack for the season. Grim, eerie and rooted in the occult, Covenant quite effectively captures the feel of the light fading as days grow shorter, the growing chill in the air and the sense that spirits are stirring and something wicked this way may be coming.
Working again with ex-Ephel Duath bandmate/now husband Davide Tiso – also of prog metal supergroup Howling Sycamore – who handled guitar, bass and keyboards on the 2015 debut Salem’s Wounds, Gospel Of The Witches have crafted a follow-up that, like last time, combines occasionally jarring metal, goth/doom throb and ample ambient passages that shift from the ethereal to the dread-inducing.
Topping it all is Crisis’ elastic, sometimes terrifying, whisper-to-a-scream-to-a-growl-to-a-screech vocals – or, per the band’s website, invocations – that never let the listener get too comfortable. Anyone who was impressed by Julie Christmas’ similarly rangy work with Cult of Luna on 2016’s masterful Mariner album should dig Crisis’ work here.
Covenant opens with the surprisingly brash “Womb Of The World,” a roiling hard rocker buoyed by Fabian (Skinlab) Vestod’s the ritualistic drumming, but soon settles into the more melancholy mood that predominates over much of the album with the Spartan “Drawing Down the Moon” and the Type O Negative-like creepy crawl of “Stretto di Barba.” This is not an album that assaults you with sound – indeed it is notably in the relative sparseness of the instrumentation – which makes the more full-throated tunes really stand out.
The menacing “Great Mothers” and “Janara” bring back the heft of the opening track, with Vestod’s fluid tempos and Tiso’s more assertive guitars, and find Crisis channeling young Regan MacNeil from “The Exorcist” as her vocals slingshot between wispy cleans and fearsome gutturals. “Dea Iside” and “Diana Mellifica” do as well, but to a lesser extent. That said, there are still quiet spaces in between on even the “heaviest” tracks.
And the album concludes in a relative hush, despite the intimations of the title of the closing track “Blood of the Mother” Both “Blood” and the preceding “Circle Of White Light” boast a particularly barebones presentation, with just Crisis’ breathy vocals over a desolate wash of guitar. It makes for a bit of a let down, since it seemed like things might be building to a crescendo following “Diana Mellifica.” But it was not to be.
Still, the closing tracks do hint of something sinister, and as such capture the prevailing mood of Covenant. Summer’s over and done, indeed.