Artist – Damn the Witch Siren
Album / Label – White Magic / Baddest Bitch Records
Rating – 8 / 10
Witch Rock is the self-ascribed genre of Damn the Witch Siren. If you are like me and have never listened to this Columbus powerhouse, it can be difficult to understand what that means. You may also find yourself completely surprised by the sounds that flow from your speakers when you play Witch Rock for the first time, because, while it is nothing like I imagined it would be, it is a perfect name.
I say all this as a bit of a preface. I know next to nothing about electronic music, and other than one dark semester my freshman year of college when I got really into Electronic Dance Music (EDM), I have rarely listened to it. I was hesitant going into this review, not because the album was bad, but because I lack the language to properly talk about this album. With that said, the album is awesome in way I don’t fully know how to explain.
The beginning tones of Love Song in D Major feel like the start of a video games. It feels like you’re about to jump into another world, and in a way, you do. You are jumping into the world of Witch Rock. It is spacey, it’s atmospheric, and it rules. Singer Bobbi Kitten starts the song in the lower end of their register, but slowly builds higher and higher as the song progresses.
The first time I listened to the slam at the end of the chorus, I jumped a little, because it came completely by surprise. It fits so well, and it kept me on my toes. Its easy to get lulled into a false sense of security by Kitten’s voice and the smooth electronic vibes, but that heavy hit is a wake-up call. It only happens once, as well, but throughout the rest of the song there are multiple places where it feels like it should be, adding the slightest bit of tension and suspense to the song.
Gothic Summer introduces a bit of a somber feeling, and the sounds of small glitches as the song fades in. The song does a really good job of fluctuating space. Certain elements sound like they’re coming to you from the other end of a tunnel, and others are right next to you. Then they add a bass line that is even closer than anything else, giving the song more depth, as the vocals change space from word to word. The voices sound happy on the surface, but there is an element of pain in them, which gives the song another level beyond physical depth.
It feels like this album takes you from one world to another with each song. Where Gothic Summer had depth and different elements, Ice Queen strips all that away, with vocals over almost no music, then periods with a simple, melancholy electronic beat. The vocals sound desperate, with the end of lines quivering, and at the end of the song the vocals themselves become electronic, phasing in and out as the song moves towards its conclusion.
With XXX Me the transportation is back in time. The song sounds like it was meant to play either in an 80s club, or over a montage in an 80s romcom. It’s fun, it’s bubbly, and it’s the kind of song that makes you want to go dance with people. The song sounds playful, and is a nice pivot from the darker, more somber songs that preceded it.
The piano at the beginning of Pretty Rocket marks another complete tonal shift. Electronic elements are gradually added to that piano, though, as the vocals come in. At the end of the first verse, the song returns to form with atmospheric vibes and soft vocalizing by Kitten. Then the song begins to deteriorate. Everything slows down and it sounds like the song is playing through molasses. It settles into this new tempo and adds vocals again, with a more industrial feeling than the spacey ambiance. The song goes through another shift at the end, as it once again slows even more, sounds start to echo on top of themselves, and the song fades, leaving just a pulsating bass tone.
The industrial feeling continues, but it is tweaked a bit for Ain’t Love Everything. The vocals are breathy in a great way, there’s a hint of darkness in the music and lyrics, and it makes you want to dance close with someone. It feels like it should be playing in a dark club. It also feels like a song from the 80s, à la XXX Me but on a completely different end of the spectrum. It isn’t bouncy and fun. It is smooth and darker.
Ghost in a Sheet lives up to its name. The music sounds haunting, with vocals to match. The distortion on the chorus singing the title adds to the simulation feeling that subtly runs through the album. With the use of glitches in the music, as well as the abrupt changes in tempo or style, the song has a feeling that its deteriorating in some way.
The piano comes back for Imposter Syndrome, leading to the albums most “traditional” song. It gives Kitten an opportunity to showcase her vocal ability, with only a piano as her backing rather than the usual mix of electronic sounds. The desperation from earlier songs returns in a subtle way, with notes holding longer than they should, along with the power that comes in the chorus. The piano and vocals come in like a thunderclap after a very soft and delicate song. They crash down then recede back to their previous levels. It feels like this should have been the end of the album because there is a certain feeling of exhaustion at the end of the song. It would have been a very appropriate ending.
To prove that I know nothing about album composition, though, Damn the Witch Siren follow up Imposter Syndrome with a perfect transition into the album’s final two tracks. Soft and Blue starts gently, with bells and soft vocals. Next, a chorus of voices is added. The first chorus then swells and breaks back into the dark, pulsating electronic music that the group is known for. After this chorus, the verse moves into yet another territory, adding a smooth bass and drum line that gives the song a bit of a funky touch. The song continues with this amalgamation of sounds until the end where everything fades save for one piano and the soft voice of Kitten.
The sound of guitar leads into Paradise, which is not a sound that is common on this album. Ending how it began, Paradise has a similar feeling of suspense that is present in Love Song in D Major. There are multiple places that it feels obvious for a large electronic punch, but after a lingering pause, the guitar and voices reenter. As the song comes to a close, voices begin to layer on top of one another, with a hint of dissonance that builds on the suspense before dropping out, leaving Kitten again alone with just a guitar. The song ends the album gently. It comes to a slow close without one more crash or punch, just a voice and a guitar.
White Magic is not an album I would have sought out, but it made me realize that I really like this type of music. It’s infectious and makes me want to sing and dance. It’s not the “electronic” music my college roommates listened to with just pounding bass and strange noises. The music is great, and it evokes emotions and feelings in different ways than traditional instruments do.
I’ve already started going back through Damn the Witch Siren’s back catalog and I’m realizing that White Magic is a great way to be introduced to their brand of Witch Rock. It is just as accessible as it is enjoyable. I might not give up my metalcore and punk rock and replace them with electronic music just yet, but I will gladly listen to any future releases from Damn the Witch Siren.
You can purchase DTWS’s album White Magic HERE
- Love Song in D Major
- Gothic Summer
- Ice Queen
- XXX Me
- Pretty Rocket
- Ain’t Love Everything
- Ghost in a Sheet
- Imposter Syndrome
- Soft and Blue
Damn the Witch Siren – XXX Me