By Chyrisse Tabone, Tampa Correspondent
REVIEW of One-Eyed Doll’s Witches
Kimberly Freeman (guitar/vocals) and Jason “Junior” Rufuss Sewell (drums/production)
Rock at Night’s Grade: A
On March 24th One-Eyed Doll’s concept album Witches was released, coinciding with their cross-country U.S. tour. The inspiration of the album was the mass hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials, where 19 people were hanged and one pressed to death with stones after being accused of sorcery in the late-1690s. Horror films and plays, for example, Arthur Miller’s Crucible, have used the historical event as a backdrop, but I do not recall any music in recent years using this as a fundamental theme. Witches incorporates actual historical documentation from Rev. Samuel Parris’ notebook into the body of music as well as original lyrics written by One-Eyed Doll.
Reading about the theme of the album and its conception with acoustic instruments in the middle of the Redwood Forests of Santa Cruz made me even more intrigued about this original and artistic endeavor. Concept albums, however, are nothing new to rock music. Many of the Progressive rock albums of the 60s and 70s (e.g., The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall, etc.) have experimented with carrying either a lyrical or melodic theme. More recent examples are Green Day’s American Idiot or My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.
I listened to the album on a website prior purchasing the actual CD (yes, I liked it that much) paying sharp attention to the musical arrangement and tone. Each song in the album transitions to the next like a movement in a symphony. I listened intently and felt the melancholy and emotion in Kimberly Freeman’s voice as she as empathetically projected the viewpoints of the Salem victims (“Prayer” and “A Rope for Mary”). A steady backbeat builds tension and drama (“Ember”), later exploding into a crescendo of power chords which metaphorically represents the mass hysteria of “group-think” (“Black in the Rye” and “Witch Hunt”). Throughout the chaos, creepy riffs create a circus-like or Danny Elfman-ish feel to the album. Haunting violins, Spanish guitars, mandolins and even a banjo, add depth and a gypsy-ish or medieval tone (“Remember” and “Afflicted”). Modern synth beats are sandwiched between driving power chords creating a moody and melodramatic theme that ties each song together. Even though the songs are arranged or fleshed-out with acoustic stringed instruments, the music is not folksy or soft but most definitely heavy rocking and even bluesy at times. Closely listen to the songs and you may hear interwoven guitars or layers of instruments in the vein of Yes or Pink Floyd.
Even though the idea of One-Eyed Doll doing a concept album may sound like a heavy, artistic achievement with a solemn theme, there is still signature One-Eyed Doll upbeat material they are known for playing at live concerts. “Black in the Rye” is definitely a punkish metal song with a catchy chorus screaming “Black in the rye…she must die.” The song refers to a theory that the rye grain in Salem was possibly tainted with ergot (fungus), thus producing the seizures or psychedelic delusions described during the witch trials.
A mini-description of each song is presented as follows:
Ember–Heavy, death-metal guitar beat……Tim-Burton-ish or creepy melody with occasional growling and singsong lyrics interlaced with heavy metal riffs.
Prayer…A medieval –tinged melody which pleads “Save us from the serpent’s plan to enslave us..take us to his kingdom of darkness”….layers of synths, a gypsy-like violin, a guitar…melancholy and hauntingly beautiful.
Black in the Rye…A definite heavy metal song with a very catchy chorus which is perfect for audience interaction…”She must die…black in the rye.”
A Rope for Mary…A very, slow bluesy feel and mournful melody… steady metal guitar chords and lyrics from the standpoint of Mary who is afraid for her children and the “insane” town.
More Weight….Frogs chirping giving the song a swampy or boggy feel… heavy power chords and a chorus crying “more weight”… moaning “oohs” and chanting “heavy stones…crush his bones.”
Remember…Spanish guitar and mandolin-laden melody with a medieval feel… instrumental layering reminiscent of Yes.
Witch Hunt..Heavy power chords and haunting melody evoking a foreboding or ominous tone…minor chord riffs and minor-scale melody with almost an Asian feel.
Stillness…Banjo, mandolin, and violin…a slow, melancholic and almost medieval-sounding melody which increases in intensity at the end (loud drum beats, singing with painful emotion)… almost a 1970s prog rock guitar sound.
Afflicted…A bass-like synth beat…singing in minor key with almost a Middle-Eastern tone.
Sorrow…A synth with a sweet, haunting melody
The Ghosts of Gallows Hill… A minor key instrumental intro with almost a Middle-Eastern tinge… drums, metal guitar and an uplifting and hopeful sounding melody with almost a classic 70s sound.
NEW WITCH HUNT VIDEO
Album Info: Produced by Jason Rufuss Sewell, Mastered in Sweden by Eric Broyhill, Art–Aaron Bordner, Label–Standby Records. All music written by Kimberly Freeman and Jason Rufuss Sewell. Lyrics by Kimberly Freeman.
**Watch for Rock At Night’s in-depth interview with One-Eyed Doll and their new video “Afflicted”
ROCK AT NIGHT REVIEW SCALE:
A Love it. My new favorite!
B Enjoyed it. Will play again.
C O.K. Can take it or leave it.
D Not my cup of tea. What can I say?
F Please. Make it go away!