Suffering and despair are emotions that each and every one of us has dealt with – either in the past, or in the present – and Four Phantoms succinctly creates the atmosphere of dread and solitude that sadness often brings. Bell Witch already have a stunning record in their catalogue, Longing, yet Four Phantoms takes everything that that record has and increases it tenfold. Longing was heavy, it was weighted in grief in and anguish and it spoke to the heart and its failings. Four Phantoms steps further into doomed territory and lays utter honesty down for all to see. Bell Witch bare their souls and the fear and dread that is found within is terribly beautiful.
The simple progressions are borne from naught but bass, drums and voices, and the horror that is expelled through Bell Witch’s members is difficult to comprehend at times. Dylan Desmond and Adrian Guerra create music that is cloaked in shadows, that casts out all light and strikes at the very core of your humanity. Despondency is the key emotion here, and Bell Witch filter that through gorgeous, sorrowful bass leads that wrap the heart in a constantly tightening grip that delivers pain and suffering and darkness. First track, “Suffocation, A Burial: I – Awoken (Breathing Teeth),” bears all the hallmarks of Bell Witch – gorgeous movement from heavy passages to more solemn, quieter moments; vocals that writhe with hurt; and agonizing, soaring bass lines that become almost unbearable in their haunting elegance.
The evocative nature of this work as a whole is felt even more keenly when each track is broken down. Each speaks of a spirit yet to completely pass over, and their feelings of being forever entombed, unable to break free of the things that bind them to the mortal earth. The songs are centred around four differing spirits (or ghosts, if you will), and their tether to the world – the four elements. The first song therefore is Earth, the second Fire, then Water and finally Air. Bell Witch have a concept, and with Four Phantoms it works beautifully.
The heartbreak of “Judgement, In Fire: I – Garden (Of Blooming Ash)” is tangible and the rich, gathering layers of sound flicker and burn with serenity and, perhaps, acceptance of the inevitable outcome. Desmond’s voice betrays only the realisation that nothing more can be done to move forward, that the ritual must be repeated endlessly and that death may not be the end we hope for. This definite sadness carries on through to the funereal “Suffocation, A Drowning: II – Somniloquy (The Distance of Forever),” which features a stunning vocal contribution from Aerial Ruin’s Erik Moggridge and a heartrending performance from Desmond who teases out soul-destroying sorrow from his bass. Mournful cascades of sound fall deeper into the abyss while Guerra pushes the song forward on steady, monolithic beats that hit hard, slow and heavy.
“Judgement, In Air: II – Felled (In Howling Wind)” finalises the album, and its desolation with a track that rolls in melancholy and melody in equal measure. The bass works to add regret and bittersweet sorrow with climbing, echoing structures that tower over the harsh, deep voice beneath. Guerra adds another element of doom to proceedings with oppressive drum beats and additional vocal lines that add to the claustrophobic aura of this monumental and sombre ending.
Four Phantoms is gorgeous, morose, devastating and painful. It’s honest, it’s otherworldly and it’s entirely worth the anguish and hurt that you’ll feel while losing yourself to it.
Four Phantoms is available to order via Profound Lore Records.