I’m not gonna do it. I’m not going to spiel about how midwestern hardcore doesn’t get a fair shake and that there’s tons of underappreciated bands out there who can fucking trounce the next big dumb band from the next big dumb city. It’s true, but it’s redundant and (to this writer) it feels like excuse-making. Iowa’s Closet Witch need no such excuse; where they’re from isn’t so much important here. This self-titled debut full-length speaks for itself and can whet the appetites of grind and powerviolence lovin’ lunatics everywhere. This is blazing aggression to the nth degree.
It doesn’t take long for listeners to learn to hang on to their hats from opener “Blood Orange.” From the freeze-frame stop at the halfway point to the pummelling benter-than-fuck spazzy “groove” that closes things up, it’s apparent that this isn’t your mother’s cut-and-dry hardcore. Moreso, longer tracks like “Rule By Bacon,” “Lost and Unidentified,” and “Personal Machu Picchu” thread in a welcome waves of atmosphere and melody, functioning as much-needed breathers from the baseline full-tilt cacophony. These tasteful detours become especially evocative, dragging things down tempo-wise and folding in a healthy dose of flavor and character while exhibiting the group’s impressive range. It’s really hard not to want more of these moments when they hit so hard and work so fucking well, but as it goes, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.
Still, the album ricochets from maniacally breakneck to pointed, mathy stutters to foot-stomping grooves with utter recklessness. Technically, it’s tumultuous and executed with a devious skill that brings to mind the compartmentalized chaos of less-melodic The Dillinger Escape Plan material. For as disorienting as the first few listens may be, subsequent spins become riddled with those magical mathy moments that you’ll learn to love (check the shifty “Brother” or the angular “It Doesn’t Feel Free”). “Eyelids of Horus” is a galloping Converge style blazer replete with fire alarm bell accents and a snare thrashing that’ll keep Iowa’s music shops in business. As busy or dizzying as the album is, there’s a lean nature to the whole thing. There’s a little wiggle room for some straightforward spitfire grind (“Spell of Giddiness”) and even a classic hardcore tumble (“Daylillies”). The four-piece approach makes things a little easier to decode, too, but the way they assemble and piece apart the core elements in their sound (grind, powerviolence, mathcore, hardcore, et al.) serves as a key to processing the method behind the madness.
Like any quality powerviolence act, Closet Witch are simultaneously biting, empowering, and cathartic. Lyrically covering political big-picture topics like feminism, class warfare, identity, and also digging into some more introspective themes, Mollie Piatetsky regularly cuts to the bone, yet she refrains from getting bogged down in a spite-fest. Her delivery is unchained, howling with a tirelessness and purpose that’s equal parts intimidating energy and rhythmically earworming. Her style helps dictate much of the record’s flow and gives a little boost in each track. She’s rock fucking solid throughout the album, but should her repertoire broaden… look out.
I have no clue if this was recorded live or individually tracked, but there’s something so inextricably natural about this, where that “live feel” is spot the fuck on in lieu of a more polished “album feel.” Sequencing takes things a step further, breaking down this album into a pseudo set that is dynamic and well-paced. Needless to say, it’s ideal for their style. It highlights the spirit, intensity, and the exciting nature of aggressive music in a live setting, but also a charisma, personality, and interplay of the musicians. Other bands can be loud or tear up your eardrums with 20 minutes of senseless disarray, but it frequently comes off in exercise. Here, it’s alive, embedded in each track. You can almost feel the heat, smell the sweat, and tap into that magnetic sixth sense that lets you know there’s a body flying your way. As far as debuts go, there’s little to nitpick; they seem to have cut their teeth on their EPs and were primed for a bigger statement. There’s no doubt the heart-on-the-sleeve, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps ethos is alive and well here, and really, this kind of authenticity is difficult to develop, so it’s hard to imagine that Closet Witch are going away anytime soon – good news for us.
Closet Witch is out June 12th on Halo of Flies, SassBologna, Jems, Circus of the Macabre, Don’t CAre, React With Protest.