Across History, we find many musical works that pay homage to the dead and “Mirror Reaper” is one remarkable and ominous example of that. Comprised by Dylan Desmond (6-string bass and vocals) and Jesse Shreibman (drums, vocals and organ), Bell Witch, a Funeral Doom duo from Seattle, just emerged with a new work filled with a tragic and devastating atmosphere.
This work is a legendary and enriching experience at many levels: starting by the massive impact of the extremely intimidating and symbolic cover artwork (by Mariusz Lewandowski), it consists of an 83-minutes continuous movement that unfolds revealing many impressive twists and turns. Engineered and mixed by Billy Anderson (who worked with notable bands like Neurosis, Swans and Sleep), this composition also has a visual accompaniment (by Taylor Bednarz) which intensifies the atmosphere and turns their live acts into cinematic journeys.
According to this duo “Mirror Reaper” alludes to the Hermetic axiom “As Above, So Bellow” and, to highlight this narrative, the group even materialized that feature in the LP’s mechanics, assuming each side of the disc one of the mentioned realms (“As Above” and “So Below”). The same can be told about the dichotomy between Life and Death, this world and the other; a concept that the band keeps exploring in its work.
This movement starts quietly with notes that feel like drops of water falling on a limitless ocean and to accentuate the atmosphere, the background is occasionally filled with organ arrangements and the sound of Dylan’s fingers sliding along the strings. Without warning, the drums and the heavy bass distortion kicks in and a crushing soundscape follows. With slow funeral chords and drumming that suspends time, Bell Witch turn into music the asynchronicity that we sometimes feel between our heartbeats and the rhythm of the rest of the world.
Although Funeral Doom is dismal and hopeless by nature, this particular opus became a major dirge because of the devastating loss of former drummer Adrian Guerra, who passed during the recording of “Mirror Reaper”. Due to this event, there’s a palpable raw and visceral sorrow present here and to honor and immortalize the spirit of their friend, the group used exclusive recordings of Adrian’s voice (previously recorded for “Four Phantoms”) in this composition. It is precisely in the album’s midpoint climax, where the two sections collide, that Guerra’s exhumed voice appears, echoing and drifting along with the bass riffs and the rest of the song – a moment that “Serves as conceptual turn in the piece, or point of reflection”.
One of the most memorable aspects of this movement is how with only bass, drums and an organ, the atmosphere shifts from intense and world shaking moments of swirling despair with monolithic and visceral piercing growls (where we also find the collaboration of Erik Moggride) to quiet periods of contemplative introspection and insurmountable melancholy softened by the sweet and almost innocent Dylan’s voice – a voice that aims to bring solace to our lost souls.
This surely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Even so, with an open mind, time and the right mood, you’ll find yourself totally submerged in a deep trance from which you’ll only wake maybe 15 minutes after the last note ceases. This is the kind of sonority that penetrates your body and soul; and you might even regard listening to this album as a cathartic process.
With “Mirror Reaper”, Bell Witch materialized one of their most ambitious creations, retaining the monolithic heaviness of their previous releases while exploring more meditative melancholy and introspective aspects. It’s impressive what this duo was able to create with such a minimalist instrumentation and within the genre, this is as honest and as intense as it gets.