Originally written by Rae Amitay
Longing may be comprised of only half a dozen songs, but it’s over an hour of strangling melancholy that occasionally loosens its white-knuckled grasp just long enough for the listener to take a few ragged, desperate breaths. Opening with “Bails (Of Flesh)”, Bell Witch wastes no time creating a nearly unbearable atmosphere of emptiness and decay. For twenty minutes, this piece of music becomes its own animal that wanders and rests, struggles and succumbs, and slowly dies – following the path of a wounded beast whose life is slowly ebbing into nothingness. There is a shift after fifteen minutes have passed. The creature is dead, and something altogether new enters the fold. It’s almost as though the bass and drums slamming into the earth in patient, crushing, unison signal the end of one life and the beginning of another. This music is slow, but it keeps moving with a purpose.
“Rows (Of Endless Waves)” introduces higher anguished screams as well as soothing clean vocals and haunting whispers. The sadness still prevails, but whereas before the depressive air was nearly paralyzing, now the mood lifts just enough for the listener to continue their funeral march under a shroud of loss. The last two minutes in particular could even be described as hopeful, as the tempo picks up and the vocals become a chant armed with resolve. Even though this project has only two members (bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond and drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra), and employs a six-string bass instead of a guitar, there is still a great deal of texture upon Bell Witch’s sonic topography. Any sparseness only lends itself to the gloom and loneliness that pervades Longing, and the title track is no exception. The minimal approach of the bass leaves room for the low, clean, chant-like vocals to cast a heavy blanket over the listener as cymbals crash and echo above.
“Beneath The Mask” is a shorter song that utilizes cleaner bass tones and no drumming at all. The result is a suspenseful and sullen intermission before collapsing back into the void with “I Wait”. The unearthly bellows interspersed with tortured wails are painfully visceral, and these vocal performances are some of the most arresting I’ve ever heard. The song crescendos with the intensity of someone fighting to the death, before fading into hissing feedback, and eventual silence. “Outro” is, well, an outro, serving its purpose by closing the curtain on Bell Witch’s tragic journey. Gentle, mournful, and achingly beautiful, Longing may not be well-suited for frequent listening, but it’s an astounding way to spend a forlorn hour.