Bell Witch and Spirit Possession bring funeral doom and black metal to Boggs

Written by Scott Belzer | October 13th, 2023

In what is sure to be one of the best shows this year (or at least my personal favorite, damn it), Bell Witch and Spirit Possession are offering a bit of yin and yang on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at Boggs Social & Supply. Not sure what exactly that means? Consider the following:

Immense. Vast. Tidal. Glacial. Pulsing. Cinematic. Cerebral.

These are just a few words I’d use to describe funeral doom metal duo Bell Witch to casual listeners. It’s not a band you simply put on and listen to, track-to-track. It’s music you experience wholly and introspectively, often in 20-minute spurts—if not longer. Their 2023 release, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate, is an hour-and-23-minute-long doom metal symphony, complete with measures, acts, rising action and denouement. And if the album title is anything to go by, that’s just part one, man.

The music itself features all the hallmarks of funeral doom: vocals that are more monastic than metal, drawn out notes that cascade and descend, impeccably timed drumming that moves it along at a pall bearer’s pace. What Bell Witch brings to the table is a more cohesive and transcendental, offering the same nirvana-like presence of mind to listeners as Sunn O))) or post-rock juggernauts. Each movement, beat and verse flows into the next, moving in and out like the rising and falling of the tide. Being funeral doom, it will simultaneously overwhelm you and relieve you. 

Fans of Bell Witch know this is nothing unusual. The Pacific Northwestern project has been pumping out snail-paced dirges and lamentations since 2010 and shown no signs of stopping. Even with the unfortunate passing of band founder and former drummer Adrian Guerra in 2015, Bell Witch has marched on. The event served (at least partly) as inspiration for the band’s follow-up record in 2017, Mirror Reaper, which meditates on the paradoxical nature of time (passing, yet frozen by nature of memory) along with the inevitability that awaits us all.

Setting the stage for Bell Witch, on the near-opposite side of the spectrum, will be Spirit Possession. This Portland duo’s 2023 release, Of the Sign…, is one of this year’s best metal releases (or at least a personal favorite, damn it), being mentioned by blogs, magazines and YouTubers alike. While mostly black metal, the band incorporates elements of war metal, thrash and psychedelia to create something all their own. One second, it’s thrashy, primitive and borderline chuggy. The next, a melody cuts through the reverb-and-synthesizer-produced noise, leading you along for a few seconds.. only to cut out again. This process repeats, builds and surges with a vigor many black metal bands seek but never find. You don’t ease into listening to Spirit Possession. You throw that shit on and riot.  

There’s a frenetic energy to Spirit Possession that, at first, sounds like chaos. It’s fast. It’s dynamic. With “S”’s (Steve Peacock’s) guitar style, you take 90-degree turns instead of wide, careful curves. The music’s changes come suddenly and without warning. There’s enough distortion and noise manipulation to leave even the most diehard metalheads confused like lost puppies. But upon closer inspection, you start to notice there’s a method to the madness: S’s riffs and melodies are more of a cavalcade of solos, each designed to guide the listener along the tumultuous soundscapes created with “A”’s (Ashley Spungin) rhythm/synthesizer section. Each riff is a jolt to the system, there to possesses you (ayo!) and electrify you into matching the duo’s fevered energy. S’s vocals aren’t so much wails of pain as they are cries of ecstasy. He’s feeling good—frenzied even—and wants you to feel good too. 

-Scott Belzer

Bell Witch, Spirit Possession, and Dungeon Filth haunt Atlanta at Boggs Social on Wednesday, November 1st, tickets are on sale here.