Long, punishing devastation is something baked into the doom genre. The music is supposed to drag you underground on a slow, punishing excursion into the unknown, where you confront the darkest forces imaginable and come out the other side a little more blackened. Then there are bands such as Bell Witch that want to transform you altogether.
“Mirror Reaper” probably wasn’t the easiest, most convenient listen for a lot of people. A single track that lasts a crushing 83 minutes is anything but leisurely listening. It demands a commitment of time and energy from the listener and, in return, the band —bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond and drummer/vocalist Jesse Schreibman—expounds on the philosophy “as above, so below,” stretching out on the seven Hermetic principles (mentalism, correspondence, vibration, polarity, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender) that speaks to the duality of life and the alignment of experiences on all planes of existence. You get a journey into philosophical realms, where you confront life and death, dual realities, and everything contained within. Along the way, the band unleashes mournful, drubbing, and dramatic sections sewn together by the ominous pall that hangs over this. Once again, they’re joined on vocals by Erik Moggridge (Ariel Ruin), and they also pay homage to their fallen brother and former drummer Adrian Guerra, who has a haunting and very real presence on the record.
Desmond took time to answer some of our questions about this amazing record including how the music transformed itself into its final form, some of the meaning behind the content, and what it means to reach out to a plane beyond and embrace Guerra one last time. Our thanks to Desmond and this band for continually creating music that takes us somewhere else for a little while. (Oct. 20)
MEAT MEAD METAL: We are naming “Mirror Reaper” as one of our top 5 metal releases of 2017. It’s a very ambitious record at a single track, 83 minutes. But it didn’t start out this way, right? How did the record end up taking this form?
DYLAN DESMOND: Thank you! That’s very cool to hear! The original idea was to write two movements titled “As Above So Below.” There were going to be 7 sub-movements within the 2 main movements. As time progressed this idea seemed to have taken a backseat, and the song itself had taken a life of its own.
MMM: How is the song being interpreted in a live setting? Is the entire album being performed? Is it being presented in segments?
DD: The set has been the first 48 minutes of the song on the tours we’ve done thus far following the album’s release. We generally slow things down in a live setting however, so I believe it’s been clocking in around 54 minutes, give or take a few. Without Erik Moggridge present, we cannot do the second half of the record. This made the dividing of the song easy, as the riff Erik comes in on is following the 48-minute mark.
MMM: What is it about the “as above, so below” philosophy that speaks to you and inspired you to write this record? How does that principle of duality affect your life outside of the band?
DD: The original idea behind the band was to write songs about subjects pertaining to “ghosts.” The general idea is that every song is from the perspective of a ghost trapped/held in some sort of place between life and death. It wants one or the other side but cannot escape the middle. In this spot, it describes various sorts of elements of each of the two sides. In a sense, it could be described as a hell or a purgatory. While the lyrical content has an evolving collection of metaphorical foundations, they all align with this concept. On the subject of duality, life and death are, of course, one of the most obvious sets of opposites to discuss. “As Above, So Below” is a version of this same concept; two sides make a whole. The concept is easy to grasp in its most simplistic form though can easily become more complex with a bit of imagination. Regardless of its complexity, it’s foundation remains the same. We felt like this fit right in line with the band’s lyrical concept.
MMM: The passing of Adrian Guerra hangs heavily over this album, and you were able to use some of his vocals that had been saved. What does his presence mean to this record, and how do his words impact the essence of the music?
DD: The section that Adrian’s vocals are featured in (41:47-44:11) was positioned to be the conceptual point of reflection of the song. At this point, it was written to turn on itself and mirror back what had already been presented. As with any mirror, the angle is important. We added Adrian’s vocals to this section for a few reasons. To start, we felt that it was the pinnacle of the song. This would obviously be the best place to pay tribute to him and all of his influence on the band over the years. Further, the riff had originally been discarded because it was too similar to a riff from “Four Phantoms.” With a little time and finesse, it developed its own identity and is quite different than the riff in “Four Phantoms.” The original similarities made it seem more appropriate for Adrian’s vocal placement as it had qualities of a song he had been a part of. If there was a place to invoke some sort of spirit of our dear old friend, this was the perfect avenue.
This section also seemed the perfect place for Adrian’s vocals because it was designed to reflect what was going into it back at us. Regarding the conceptual bit previously mentioned, this was the perfect placement for our friend to be in the song. I believe he would feel very honored in this, were there some way I could tell him.
MMM: As noted, Erik Moggridge returns to lend his voice to the album. Is he essentially a silent member of the band now? Any plans to make him a permanent member? What is his importance to this piece?
DD: Erik’s involvement will most likely always be one song (generally the most powerful song) per album. This one was a bit difficult in that there was only one track, so we initially discussed the mellow section which begins around 48:00 in the song. From there, Erik pointed out other spots he thought would be good, and most all of those we agreed were good. This was the most Erik has sung on a Bell Witch album thus far, and I think he did a marvelous job of it.
MMM: What are Bell Witch’s plans for 2018? Touring, or do you have any new music slowly boiling?
DD: We’re doing a European tour from March-May of 2018, and there is a potential U.S. tour in June and July. We’ll see what comes of that, but the prospect is very exciting. We’ve got about 30 minutes of material we trimmed from “Mirror Reaper” due to it not being the right fit for the song. We’re most likely going to start working on fashioning some of that into new songs in the next few weeks.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/BellWitchDoom/
To buy the album, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.merchtable.com
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/