Book of Sand – Postmodern Witchcraft

4 out of 5

Label: Auris Apothecary

Produced by: Book of Sand (?)

Nowadays, how often do you actually get to say: ‘I’ve never heard anything quite like this before’? Even if you’d pitched me Book of Sand’s Postmodern Witchcraft as doom-folk or somesuch, I have some touchpoints for that (Sixteen Horsepower; Timber Timbre), and though I get a vague sense of those touchpoints during Witchcraft’s six tracks, I’m still left with an EP of sounds wholly belonging to the band that made them, and that – yes – I’ve never quite heard before. Genre mashups aren’t new, of course, and I don’t mean to imply that BoS have created their own instruments and written otherworldly music that can’t be recognized as music except by some taste-defining elite – ahem – just that I was at once enraptured in their sound, and didn’t have to go about a study or justification as to why: I was just caught up, enjoying and immersed, affected, listening to words and sounds.

I immediately – or more accurately, after a few spins – went to the group’s bandcamp, and went through several of their albums in a row. Interestingly, if you played me Postmodern Witchcraft and other albums side-by-side without pretext, I definitely could not identify them as the same band; however, knowing they’re the same band wholly makes sense: BoS’s previous output is much more of a death metal variety, but there’s an all-encompassing approach and mysteriousness that links them; Postmodern has the recording hallmarks of death metal and of those previous albums, and feels thematically similar, but is all shaky vocal vibrato versus shouted growls, a splish-splashy pop percussion versus thrash.

Back to the album: I criticize a lot of metal groups for vague lyrics that aim for mood, but end up just rattling off phrases that don’t amount to much of anything. Here, while the words are rather sparse per song, and could also be said to just be aiming for a mood – like, end of the world stuff – they’re gorgeously haunting in their sparsity, and immediately evocative in their choice imagery. Much achieved through little.

To the music, it is, perhaps, somewhere in the middle of the two references I listed above, but there’s a further punky aggressiveness to it, and a surf influence as well. But I promise this isn’t just a case of smooshing adverse things together: the vision is cohesive, and nothing feels out of place.

…Though it does feel a bit rushed in its first half. The first three tracks, clocking in at about two minutes each, just… vanish. It’s almost like the group realized how brilliant the sounds were that they were conjuring, and decided to hold back, lest they spoil the listener. Thankfully, the latter half of the EP gives us full-blown, 4-minute compositions, and especially when you get to an explosion of strings and keys in the final track, it’s a wondrous thing. But it only makes the brevity of those first three tracks that much more noticeable, on the multiple re-plays you’re likely to give this thing.

It’s still worth it, of course, and certainly worth exploring the group’s other releases as well.