The Wytches – ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ (2014)

In their 2014 debut album, Brighton three-piece and self-proclaimed “surf doom” rockers The Wytches descend upon the rock scene with their Dick Dale-esque surf riffs and angsty (with a sprinkle of desperate) vocal performances. Unfortunately, towards the end of the record, The Wytches’ sound begins to run its course. It seems there is only so much variation you can achieve with grief-stricken vocals/lyrics and a tremolo bar.

For the most-part however, this is a worthy debut album. Musically, the lead guitar work is the record’s best asset with the surf influences creating some cosmic, exploratory and eerie connotations. Opener “Digsaw” hits with its discernible main riff, along with a flange-fuelled bass line.

“Wide at Midnight” carries the surf influence further, with guitarist/vocalist Kristian Bell confidently yanking on the tremolo bar during its arpeggiated chord structures. The influences don’t end with surf; “Robe for Juda” features a dominating doom-inspired riff, very reminiscent of something Sabbath axeman Tony Iommi would conjure up with ease.

Throughout the track listing, it becomes progressively evident that the band’s established sound relies heavily on tremolo and wah effects, as well as the infamous ‘soft/loud dynamic’. Although, the band manage to incorporate these traits well.

“Wire Frame Mattress” is definitely one of the most interesting cuts on the record, with its refreshingly cool and sinister chord progression and Nirvana-esque vocal melodies. The breakdown of this track is menacing; giving the impression of being chased by an alarming monstrous entity. The band attempt a couple of ballad-like numbers such as “Summer Again”, however it’s not particularly interesting and to be honest, the power and dominance of surrounding tracks overshadows it.

There isn’t much variation within Bell’s vocals; he spends the majority of the runtime sounding in pain and desperately clenching at anything. He does sometimes bear resemblance to Jack White, most notably in “Crying Clown” where Bell calmly utters “like a pendulum” before a stoner-rock refrain busts onto the scene.

Acoustic closer “Track 13” may seem out of place to some on a record with such tonal ferocity, yet it demonstrates the band’s ability to create more minimalist stripped-back material, allowing room for the instrumentation to breathe.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Essential tracks: Digsaw // Wire Frame Mattress // Weights and Ties

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