Doctor Smoke – The Witching Hour

Rating: 4/5
Distributor/label: Totem Cat Records
Year: 2014
Buy Album: doctorsmoke.bandcamp.com
Band Website: facebook.com/drsmokedoom

Doctor Smoke - The Witching HourBand line-up:

Matt Tluchowski – Lead Vocals/Guitar
Steve Lehocky – Lead Guitar
Cody Cooke – Bass/Vocals
Dave Trikones – Drums

Tracklisting:

01- The Willow
02 – Blood and Whiskey
03 – Evil Man
04 – The Toll
05 – Faces in the Fog
06 – From Hell
07 – The Seeker
08 – This Final Hour
09 – Permanent Night

Review

It’s closer to the dinner hour than the witching hour. The bright electric lights are giving the finger to any darkness that may be outside. This is a house of modern creature comforts, with nary a hint of the old, of places where ancient things might hide and bide their time. In short there’s nothing here to help Doctor Smoke. Nothing to give their stories of evil any extra power. If the witching hour is to come, it’ll have to come from them alone.

And by god they manage something. We suspect for the full effect you need to turn up at one of their shows, to shut out the rest of life for a moment, but THE WITCHING HOUR does hit upon some of those thin places that exist between your speakers and your real life. They got through.

Quick introduction – Doctor Smoke hail from Ohio Valley, which they call a ‘wasteland’. They’d know, we guess. We’ve never been. Either way wasteland sounds far more ‘right’ for a band like this, compared to New York or LA or any other bright lights, big city place. The witches of Macbeth may not have hung out in a wasteland as such, but they weren’t casting their spells in the middle of the castle whilst horses were tended to and chores carried out – so much magic is strengthened by atmosphere, by the right environment.

Here that means occult and doom influences running right alongside straight up hard rock, stoner, metal… no matter what anyone’s telling you, THE WITCHING HOUR is first and foremost a rock record. A pretty good one in fact. It’s right there in the tight formation of ‘The Toll’, and whatever it is that is going on with the sax solo in the home stretch of ‘From Hell’. Read that back, sax solo. In a song that talks about kiss’ from blades. Now that’s dark.

It’s also there in the dare-we-say almost indie-pop rhythm of ‘This Final Hour’s’ chorus, and the far more measured steps of the brilliant ‘The Seeker’. All delivered by a frontman who appears to have taken elocution lessons from Ozzy Osbourne. And like Osbourne, gives these dark tales of Satan, blood and doom some strange believability. Somehow it’s not laughable. Listen for the scream of “hell” five minutes into ‘Evil Man’, seconds before the guitars scratch a furious solo – ain’t it mighty fine?

Have we mentioned yet that this is their debut proper? Now that’s witchcraft.

 Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
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