Stunning. Mesmerizing. A monument of grief. Crushing. Amazing. An irrefutable classic. What a masterful debut from Bell Witch, and what a remarkable year for Doom 2012 has been. From the opening notes of “Bails (Of Flesh),” Longing’s morose magnetism instantly pulls the listener in and simply does not let go. A 20-minute epic so captivating it feels like half that length, or it could just be that the band’s sonic maelstrom of incredibly slow Funeral Doom creates a languor in which time no longer exists. This duo (featuring a member of Samothrace) come off like the manic depressive offspring of Mournful Congregation and Pallbearer, as if comparisons could even begin to scratch this surface. Pure melancholic alchemy atop layers of Earth-shaking heaviness. Melodies capable of melting broken hearts intertwined with dirges capable of melting icecaps. A multifaceted vocal approach seals the deal throughout these soul-crushing 67 minutes. The first style we’re treated to is a morbidly desolate, long-winded growl. As compulsory as the death knell of a prehistoric beast, this is just one of several tools. It’s the clean vocals that push this beyond the boundaries of sorrow as we know it. Whether it be the graceful, choir-like pitch of the opener, the chanted evocations of “Longing (The River of Ash),” or the fragile, delicate croons of “Rows (Of Endless Waves),” it’s the clean vocals that transform this from music to magic. There’s also the occasional Blackened shriek of the utmost torment. I don’t know what more could you possibly ask for. What’s that? You want a Vincent Price sample as well? How’s The Masque of the Red Death for you? Yes, “Beneath the Mask” is a cheerlessly foreboding instrumental set to an excerpt from the Poe classic. Bell Witch has crafted that rare opus that does no wrong, and when you think it can’t get any better, it does just that. The album’s ending creates an instant void that can only be filled with more of itself. Longing doesn’t beg for repeated listens, it demands them. Somehow there is consolation in its plodding emptiness. Beautiful. Sullen. An unparalleled worship of Negativity completely void of all hope. What a tremendous year for Doom, indeed.
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