Acid Witch, everyone’s favorite psychedelic / Satanic / horror / doom / death metal band, has brewed up another cauldron full of cavernous growls, spooky organ licks, wailing solos and anvil-heavy riffs. Though there has been a major personnel change in the band’s camp and some subtle sonic refinement, new album Stoned is still instantly recognizable as an Acid Witch recording. For those poor souls yet unfamiliar with the band’s sound, imagine if Asphyx and Cathedral traveled back in time to 1970, met up with Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix, dropped acid, watched eight hours of Hammer horror movies, smoked a shitload of reefer and then jammed their asses off. Yeah, it’s that awesome.
Stoned finds Acid Witch’s membership reduced by one-third, and its Finnish quotient is reduced to nil following the departure of Lasse Pyykkö (Hooded Menace, Claws, and a bunch of other bands). Although exactly who plays which instrument in this band is a matter still shrouded in secrecy, Pyykkö is a musician of some accomplishment, and I expected his departure from an already small group to leave a big hole. Yet, Slasher Dave and Shagrat have soldiered on, without missing a beat.
If you wish to save any further reading, I will state it plainly: If you liked Witchtanic Hellucinations, you will undoubtedly enjoy Stoned. Go buy it. That said, as a reviewer, it is my job to dissect and over-analyze, so I shall now spend some time expounding upon the differences between two not-very-different records. Though Acid Witch’s musical approach remains unchanged, there has been some growth and development in the band’s songwriting. Witchtanic Hellucinations’ amalgamation of styles established Acid Witch’s unique musical voice, but at times, the disparate elements seemed rather crudely stitched together. The psychedelic lead guitar freak-outs in particular, while thoroughly far out, man, had a tendency to obliterate the underlying music. On Stoned, the rhythms, keyboards and lead guitar are woven together in a more complementary manner, giving the album greater thematic depth than its predecessor. Furthermore, where the debut’s rough-hewn slabs of doom grooved in their own ham-fisted way, there are tracks on Stoned, such as “Witchfynder Finder”, “Stoned to the Grave” and the epically alliterative “Metal Movie Marijuana Massacre Meltdown” that legitimately rock.
With the exception of the instrumental tracks “Satanic Faith” and “Whispers in the Dark,” which serve more as atmospheric mood pieces than actual songs, there is not a bad track on Stoned. Acid Witch has managed to fill each song with a perfect blend of melody, groove and massive, crushing doom. Of all the tracks, “Thundering Hooves” has proven the most infectious, despite being almost entirely instrumental, with its only lyrics consisting of some movie samples and the title repeated as a chorus. However, the strongest track on the album is “Sabbath of the Undead,” which is as exquisitely evil, epic and doomtastic as its title suggests.
Witchtanic Hellucinations was a Hell of a record, but Acid Witch’s irreverent, tongue-in-cheek style could have easily gotten it dismissed as a novelty act. Stoned, however, proves that Acid Witch is playing for keeps. The band has overcome a major line-up change and delivered an album that stays true to its established style, while at the same time showing maturation in both songwriting and performance. To say that Acid Witch has avoided the sophomore slump is a grand understatement.