ALBUM REVIEW: Close the Hatch’s “Modern Witchcraft”

ARTIST: Close the Hatch + ALBUM: Modern Witchcraft + LABEL: Red Moth Records + RELEASE DATE: MAY 22, 2020

Ohio based Close the Hatch has been grinding away in the trenches of the Midwest doom scene since 2011. The quartet is composed of Shaun O. on guitar, Steve B. on vocals/guitar, Shaun H. on drums, and Josh G. on Bass. With an admirable six albums under their belt, Close the Hatch has had plenty of time to fine tune their sound. Today (May 22nd), Close the Hatch releases their latest offering, Modern Witchcraft.

Throughout their entire discography, fans of both progressive doom and heavy sludge could sit beside one another, enjoying Close the Hatch together. This time around things might be a little different. Modern Witchcraft delivers a noticeable change in the band’s writing formula. It strips away the grit and crust found throughout the band’s prior releases. This album takes the distorted vocals of their early years and replaces them with clean, melodic singing. Slow, heavy doom riffing can still be heard, but the overly distorted guitar and bass tones aren’t as prominent. Don’t get me wrong, this album is still heavy, it’s just a slightly different approach from the Dayton band of doom.

Fans received their first glimpse of Modern Witchcraft when Close the Hatch released the single, “Death of Wolves,” in mid-March. The single was released with a high quality music video put together by a collaboration of Stephen Barton/CTH and Business Tempo. The song sets the pace for the rest of the album. It’s an album of slow riffs coupled with melodic atmospheres. Don’t expect much diversity with this album. You can definitely still hear the influence from bands like Neurosis; however, this time around it lacks the constant, heavy hitting power and relies more on atmosphere.

“Cordial Medusa” and “Persona Non Grata” are two tracks that lean predominantly on the progressive side of things, leaving the crunchy sounds of the past behind. That can be said for a majority of the tracks on the album. Close the Hatch gave listeners another peek into Modern Witchcraft earlier this month when they released the single “Attunement.” Starting out with heavily distorted riffing, I had high hopes that this track would be the one that I could really bang my head to. That feeling was short-lived when it transitioned from the heavy riffs to the band’s new recipe of a progressive rock-doom hybrid.

Composed of eight tracks, Modern Witchcraft spans just over 32 minutes. It’s an album that diverts from the sound of past Close the Hatch releases. It’s not a soul shaking doom offering, nor is it a progressive masterpiece – it falls somewhere in the middle. It paints a picture of what growth in a band looks like. The songs may not be bone-shattering heavy, the vocals might not rupture your eardrums, but the song structures are cohesive and the tracks flow together in a professional fashion. But, if you are a long-time fan of Close the Hatch and have a hard time accepting change, this album could be a tough one to digest.

– Corey Smith

CTH2 Photo by Joshua Gwin

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