For all the crushing, Iommi-like riffs, occasionally rampaging pace, and seemingly universal homage, the trouble with No Light, Only Fire (Candlelight Records), the third album from Hampshire heavyweights Witchsorrow, is the lack of both atmosphere and identity. Often prosaic structures negate the undeniable power and weight of the tracks and although the sinister crawl of ‘The Martyr’ and ‘Negative Utopia’ has the sinister feel of pure Electric Wizard-esque horror about it, the sound is too often uninspired and subsequently robbed of some of the punishing might one expects.
Nick ‘Necroskull’ Ruskell is at times a vocal ringer for Jus Oborn, and similarly tries to project his well-known despair and loathing for modern life through his medium. Despite an oft decent, sonorous roar, sadly his gravelled emanations are somewhat limited in range and depth: the epic ‘…Utopia’ sees a titanic performance from the rhythm section, its supremely squalling leads also deserving of a better vocal performance than the stunted bellow in evidence. As is the filthy, horrific crawl of the standout ‘Disaster Reality’ and the primitive rumble of ‘To the Gallows’.
It’s not impossible to fathom the album’s many plaudits. There’s a largely fiery nature to the music: the blend of devilish Doom and NWOBHM patterns grooving into the mind, the almost psychedelic riffs of ‘Made of the Void’ creating a warm cocoon from the evil intent outside, while Necroskull’s solo work is staggering throughout. His earthshaking riffs are also very reminiscent of the Wizard, and maybe this is part of the problem.
There’s a glut of wonderful, imaginative Low-end stuff out there right now…and even more copycat-style, slightly above average thundering. There is a real beastliness to much of this album, perfectly embodied by epic closer ‘De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas’: a slow, prime slice of Sabbath at their finest with some incredible leadwork. This monstrous power may ensure that the album grows more attractive after repeated listens but the heavily derivative sound, together with Ruskell’s vocal limitations, sees it fall short of the lofty expectations created by the panegyric heaped upon Witchsorrow’s very name over the last couple of years.