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Black Spell – Season of the Damned Award winner

Black Spell
Season of the Damned
by Gary Hernandez at 16 January 2023, 2:24 PM

Not long ago I became obsessed with HPL’s “The Color out of Space.” More specifically, with movie adaptations of it. I saw the 2019 American version with Nicholas Cage; the 2010 German version, “Die Farbe”; and the 2008 Italian twist, “The Color from the Dark.” These adaptations are very telling of the cultures from which they were born. The American version is over the top, visually disturbing, and right up in your face; the German is black and white, stark, and exquisitely nihilistic; the Italian version . . . well, the Italian version takes you out back and violates your soul. And when it comes to approaches to Psych Doom Metal, Italy follows the same pattern. Primary case in point is BLACK SPELL, the Doom Metal trio out of Northern Italy. BLACK SPELL formed in 2020 (a foretelling sign in itself) and have one EP and three full-length albums to their credit—the latest, “Season of the Damned,” was released on November 11, 2022 (that’s 11.11.22 for our numerologists) on Regain Records.

To be completely honest, when BLACK SPELL landed in my review queue, I had never heard of them. That oversight was soon remedied. After I listened to “Season of the Damned” I quickly procured the remainder of their catalogue and began my dark descent. I should also mention that when I beheld the cover art by Markus Lindkvist, I knew I was in for a ride.

The band wastes no time in proclaiming their allegiance. Track one, “Satanic Majesty,” is intoned with an ominous church bell ringing in cadence with devilish piping. At about the half-minute mark, the devil’s tritone comes to call carried by down-tuned, fuzzy riffs and a boots-of-lead tempo. Clocking in at 7:32 this is both the longest and best track of the album. And if you’re thinking seven minutes sounds superfluous, one of the meanest solos drops in the last minute. Next up is “Black Abyss” with a riff as groovy as black knee-high boots at a cemetery go-go. If I didn’t already commit to a best track, I would give it to this one. Third up is “We Drink Your Blood” which reminds you that yes indeed this in actual fact a Doom Metal band. Fourth out of the gates is “Witches’ Brew,” an instrumental that is as dark and perfect as a death portraiture.

Either side one ends or side two starts with title-track “Season of the Damned.” I just have the digital version, so who knows. It works in either position. This is another signature tune that is as infectious as it is lethal. “Apparitions” is another instrumental. Great tunage even without Alastair’s cellar-chilled vocals. Track seven is the only track that I didn’t rave for. “Curse of the Undead” is a solid average track. Next up is the third and final instrumental, “Dead Dawn.” This track demonstrates how you know this band is a trio without looking at the lineup—the rhythm is just so tight and Alastair weaves in and out like some esoteric folk magic. The album concludes with another seven-minute track, “Temple of Drugged Sorceries.” Technically, I’d call it a six-minute track as the last 60 seconds is a Hammond outro. Excellent track and a befitting finale.

Lyrically, BLACK SPELL is a bit stereotypical in the Doom vein. Satan, witches, tombs, and damnation. If you want to explore the nuances of nihilism or existentialism, you’ll need to look elsewhere. BLACK SPELL, in my grimoire, is about riffs, rhythm, and all the down-tuned fuzz you can eat.

For returning fans . . . man, what a trip it has been. BLACK SPELL’s first LP is raw and spacious. It starts where only this band could start. Fundamentalist Psych Doom. And analog as fuck. The “Purple Skull,” released one year after their debut, is a massive jump in confidence and self-awareness. You get the feeling this is where the band knew for certain where they were and where they wanted to go. Tracks like “Feast of the Grand Whore” and “Black Alchemist” are simply stunning. There is also the often overlooked “Walpurgis Night” EP with the orphaned track “Doom Mantia,” which on one hand deserves a home on an LP but on the other hand can easily become the obligatory collector’s obsession. And if that narrative is even remotely true, “Season of the Damned” perfects and locks down that trajectory. It takes three data points to make a trend, and this trend leads us straight to hell.

Okay, I don’t usually do track-by-track reviews, much less a discography summary, but BLACK SPELL is special. I only wish they would do some songs in Italian. And some videos. I need some visual gratification here. BLACK SPELL. If Psych Doom is your thing, if you think Doom started and ended with track one, side one of “Black Sabbath” then BLACK SPELL beckons.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Satanic Majesty
2. Black Abyss
3. We Drink Your Blood
4. Witches Brew
5. Season of the Damned
6. Apparitions
7. Curse of the Undead
8. Dead Dawn
9. Temple of the Drugged Sorceries
Lineup:
Pierre – Bass
Johan – Drums, synthesizer
Alastair – Guitars, organ, vocals
Record Label: Regain Records
     


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