Written by Denman
Everyone has that sacred tome, that list of names. A short set of tight text annotating which bands created a permanent and Shopehauer-esque shift in one’s view of the world. I remember being stuck in Mississippi in my rather non-existent youth. With no access to good music, or culture of any sort, progressive objects were stumbled into in a total darkness. Somewhere in college I began to sort out a little more light from the world. This was a time when internet access consisted of all the magic that email could muster, so one was sequestered to the economy of the US postal service. I’d attained a treasured catalogue of Slap-A-Ham Records’ releases, and one album’s description not only caught my eye, but stood out with a “molasses” description, instead of the frantic powerviolence promised amongst the other albums.
Roughly a month later, I was holding this very LP in my hands. A deathly green shade harboring only a small image of a spiritual hand was the key to a new dimension for me; however, with no record player to call my own, it was a mute spell.
Eventually discovering that our campus library owned not one, but three turntables, I anxiously set a needle upon the strangely clear vinyl, and sat paralyzed with anticipation. The songs that slid into the tattered headphones provided were some of the slowest, grimiest, and most gut-wrenching sounds that I had ever heard. I was instantly a cult-like devotee, and I was changed forever.
Years later, I would be at a house party in Maryland, and, completely caught off guard, I would hear these same sounds, from what I had thought to be one of those obscure bands, lost to the cracks of time and culture. “Holy shit! You’ve heard of this band!?” Figuratively, the needle skidded off the record, and the room stopped so everyone could shoot a hard stare in my direction. “Of course, this is Burning Witch. Everyone knows this band..”
I had no idea that my dark-sludged treasure was one of the most influential bands of the modern musical underground. Always shrouded in mystery to me, I could never place physical images to Burning Witch, though I desperately wanted to observe some sort of documentation of their short existence. And then it happened. Roughly six or so months ago, I stumbled across live footage of the group, bringing that paradigmatic shift right down to earth, and thrusting those emotions through my veins all over again. I have no idea how long these videos from Burning Witch’s live performance on 29 Live, in 1997 have been circulating, or how over-viewed they’ve been to most of this community. But even if the answer is, “Too long; too often,” just indulge me for a moment, and share that life-changing experience, while taking a few minutes out of your day to transcend into the world of Burning Witch.