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Karyn Crisis’ Gospel of the Witches - Salem’s Wounds

Karyn Crisis’ Gospel of the Witches - CD Review
Salem’s Wounds

Salem's Wounds



CD Info
Century Media
Occult Experimental Metal
13 Tracks
English Lyrics 


This longish preamble is my opinion. It is not necessarily shared by any of my fellow writers at Sonic Cathedral, although I expect at least some of them may agree with my views. In case I ramble on for a while before getting to the music itself, let me clarify that my intention is to provide context for an outstandingly good album showcasing one of the finest female vocalists of the last two decades.

One notorious episode in history and one recent, localized episode in the life of Karyn Crisis have combined to steer her Gospel of the Witches project in the direction it has taken. Legends of old evil and invocations of new goodness pour forth from Salem’s Wounds.

The historical events left a permanent stain on history. The purging of the so-called witches in Salem in the 17th century was not a cleansing, not by any measure of morality. It was murder of the innocents who died in agony for being different. They were victims of prejudice, unfounded conjecture, false testimony, unjustifiable self-righteousness and sheer ignorance. Among those like Karyn Crisis who follow the occult side of spirituality, Salem left deep wounds that have continued to cause pain down the centuries.

The recent events that inspired Karyn to form Gospel of the Witches began after she married her long-time musical soul mate, Davide Tiso, and started giving lessons and lectures to members of the spiritual community in her new home of San Francisco. They came to her to learn how to tap into their metaphysical abilities as psychics and mediums.

Karyn and Davide had met in Italy in 2009, five years after the last release by Crisis, the hardcore band that shot Karyn to worldwide recognition as a pioneer of femme hard, dark and heavy music. Karyn says that while in Italy she made contact with the spirit of Aradia, an Italian witch who started teaching Karyn the Old Ways of the occult.

Those Old Ways, according to Karyn, included understanding and harnessing magic, healing, ancient history, the natural laws, and connecting to Spirit. She says Davide channeled the songs, inspired by Aradia, that make up the track list of Salem’s Wounds.

To me, listening to the gripping and engrossing Salem’s Wounds feels like holding Karyn’s hand as she sees through the eyes of those slaughtered innocents of the infamous witch trials. Yet it is also a sharing of Karyn’s vision of a much greater world we might inhabit if we could experience existence beyond the confines of our physical bodies. This wider, spiritual world would seem to be profoundly more promising and rewarding than the one we cynics and skeptics are tied to.

The two concepts conveyed through the album – the tragic suffering of witches and the “walk into the light” we might share with Karyn – are encapsulated perfectly in the title track. The “Salem’s Wounds” song begins as an ethereal, almost hymn-like incantation. It is interrupted by a jolting glimpse of horror, which in turn gives way to the walk into the light before the song ends.

To complete my preamble, the darker parts of the album are not evil, and certainly not satanic. They are about evil. They are balanced by a celebration of supernature, not by sinister chants intended to summon demons. Even so, I expect the more narrow-minded religious people would merrily condemn Karyn Crisis, her project and this album as a work of their Devil. Salem’s Wounds wouldn’t be loved much by the people who said the Smurfs, the Gummy Bears and Harry Potter were satanic because they used magic.

So to the music itself. It is unmistakably occult metal. You’ll know what that means if you’re familiar with occult metal. If it’s not a genre you visit often, The Gospel of Witches approach is built on an experimental combination of Gothic dark metal and atmospheric doom. You won’t hear any hardcore or other ’core styles on the album. The Old Ways that Karyn sings about are echoed in the pagan drumming, which calls for a good deal of pedal work on the double bass drums. Much of the guitar work is structured around poignant, melancholic melody lines.

The closest parallel to Salem’s Wounds that Sonic Cathedral has reviewed is probably Avatarium’s self-titled album in 2013. Avatarium won wide acclaim for the excellent way it almost reinvented doom metal. Salem’s Wounds is also experimental, and it is worthy of acclaim for similar reasons – it offers excellent new approaches to occult metal.

For the studio recording, the personnel supporting Karyn Crisis were her husband, Davide Tiso, on guitars and bass; Ross Dolan on backing vocals; Mike Hill , also backing vocals; and Charlie Schmid on drums. Jamie King did the mixing and mastering at The Basement Recording NC.

I’ve mentioned before that I love the combination of female clean vocals and male dark vocals. Karyn and her backing vocalists give us that. To enhance the mixture, Karyn switches from clean to dark vocals to suit the tone of the music in every song. And by all the spirits, this lady can sing! Her voice is flawless. Her growling is spine-tingling.

Salem’s Wounds has inserted itself into my cold heart and (sometimes) logical brain. It has joined the top contenders for my albums-of-the-year list. I highly recommend you add it your shopping list.

Rating: 9/10.

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