February 21, 2006

Review: Witch | Witch

There's nothing particularly distinctive about Dinosaur Jr. fronter and guitarist J. Mascis' drumming, despite drums being the instrument he initially cut his musical teeth with while playing in the early '80s Western Massachusetts hardcore act Deep Wound. Far from innocuous, certainly, but it's not like each snare crack screams out "J!" "J!" "J!" either. As such, there aren't any real Dinosaur Jr.-ish fingerprints on the eponymous debut from stoner rock purveyors Witch, a combo in which Mascis once again mounts the drummer's stool. But then again nobody said Witch was simply the J. Mascis show. The coven also includes bassist David Sweetapple as well as considerably younger cats Kyle Thomas and Asa Irons of Vermont free-folk octet Feathers on vocals and guitar respectively. The whole package is mid-tempo, smokey and sludgy, and it calls to mind the more mystical side of early Black Sabbath (the Witch track "Changing" even seems to give a nod to Sabbath's classic "After Forever," which has been covered by krishnacore act Shelter and Biohazard among others). "Hand of Glory" roars to conclusion with some screaming lead guitar and is an album highlight, as is opener "Seer," a seven-minute epic packed with van-rocking guitar that swirls like bats overhead as it navigates a nefarious bridge at about the five-minute mark. Witch streets March 7 on Tee Pee Records. Dino Jr. fan site FreakScene.net's forums seem to have some solid data on Witch live dates, which have to be wedged in whenever possible inbetween the spate of Dinosaur Jr. dates that are now inked. We're working on confirming these, but they look pretty reputable:

03/18 -- Redrum Annex -- Austin, TX
03/22 -- Black Cat -- Washington, DC
03/23 -- NorthSix -- Brooklyn, NY
03/24 -- Abbey Lounge -- Cambridge, MA
03/25 -- Iron Horse -- Northampton, MA
04/29 -- Wesleyan University -- Middletown, CT

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