Sorceress / Beneath The Mountain – the fuzzy birthplace of Mizmor and Hell

The more instantly accessible jams of stoner and psych rock are a common step many listeners take on the way to the comparatively extreme realms of sludge and blackened doom, and it seems the same can be said of the genres’ practitioners. Inspired by the mid-2000s explosion of stoner rock and doom, a Salem quartet consisting of A.L.N. (Mizmor), M.S.W. (Hell), Andrew Black and Blake Ferrin self-released just one album under the moniker of Sorceress (after renaming from Love Machine) back in 2009. Now, A.L.N. has seen fit to reissue the record digitally and on a limited edition CD.

Brimming with the kind of fuzz-drenched grooves that make stoner rock such a fun genre, Beneath The Mountain is a fascinating insight into the then developing tastes and abilities of A.L.N. and M.S.W. – two musicians who would go on to become revered names in the more extreme leg of metal’s ultra-slow subdivisions. Sorceress’ influences aren’t hard to pin down, taking cues from the warbling psychedelic groove of Witch, the menacing fuzz of Electric Wizard and the unruly energy of early Black Sabbath. It’s a tasty mix that makes for one of the more dynamic records you’re likely to hear from a genre often guilty of getting lost in the groove, and in retrospect this subtle innovation surely hints at the impressive potential of the band’s members.

Whilst the record primarily operates in the realms of boisterous stoner rock and fuzzy doom, it’s clear that this was a mere stopping point on the way to more abrasive and downtrodden territory. Not only is this discernible in both the driving chug of the epic title-track’s opening half as well as the malevolent noise of its closing half, but in the band’s constant desire to confound the listener. Though rollicking riffs like those that open the album on ‘Wolves Of Asgard’ seem to offer the sort of heads-down adrenaline favoured by the likes of Orange Goblin, the band aren’t content to rest on those laurels. After that Karma To Burn-esque instrumental, the band do a 180 into murky doom à la Dopethrone-era Electric Wizard with the opening to ‘Nine Muses’, before ‘…Of The Trees’ takes things into even weirder territory. The tracks unsettling opening is interrupted by a mammoth sludgy riff, and soon enough the band break off into a string of perplexing experimentation reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s ‘Warning’ if only in the way the track deviates further and further from its starting place, eventually sounding like the soundcheck for an avant-garde band.

Sorceress’ legacy lives on in two acts that differ tremendously from this point in their careers, but there’s an undoubtable connection to be made here. Hindsight is a gift when revisiting old albums, and whilst Beneath The Mountain is a quality doom record in its own right, it’s made all the more fascinating by the place it holds in the musical trajectory of two vital names in the contemporary metal scene.

Beneath The Mountain’s reissue is available here.

Words: George Parr

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