A not-so-new but still not very popular name is Witch Trail, publishing a new full-length these days via Consouling Sound and Babylon Doom Cult, home to many other famous Belgian bands. The trio is more than worth checking out if you want to expand your musical horizon as they are another great example of this year’s tendency of combining styles that are usually pretty hard to imagine bundled up together – the are the connecting link between noise and black metal.
First off, you will find our brief review of the album and beneath it the full-length interview in which they display an interesting combo of clownish humor (Laurens) and lengthy, deep answers (Hendrik); they explain the story behind their “Sportocratic Republic of Kampioenenland”, why Laurens doesn’t want to learn how to count and which Sonic Youth guitarist is their favorite.
Witch Trail – The Sun has Left the Hill (released on November 19th, 2019 via Consouling Sounds and Babylon Doom Cult)
Witch Trail do something similar – they create their own unique blend of post-metal taking a lot from Sonic Youth and Thurston Moore’s solo work and combining it with pure post-metal. And once again, Belgium (more specifically Ghent) proves to be a brilliant soil for unique combinations as the trio is really able to provide a fresh start to a genre as trodden as post-metal. They take the classic noise-licks and use them to replace the regular post-metal riffs. This way they also implement the pop-appeal of good noise-rock into their songs.
How they start “Lucid” with a noisy take on a nearly surf-twang guitar riff and then build the shrieking vocals around it, always leaving those easy and pumping noise-rock elements at the core of the song and right in the middle of our ears – impressive! Sometimes you must think of the Beach Boys (“Stupor”), but sharing the record with Stiff Little Fingers and Discharge (“Sinking”); suddenly Kim Gordon and SY show up on your mental stage (“Silent Running”) - but interestingly all of the songs are not sung by any of those but by a guy like Fenriz.
These 29 minutes full of twists and turns, of clean-distorted noisy-ness and of blastbeats, of infernal shrieks and a unique soundscape really captures any open ear.
Laurens: I can’t count, I’m not following.
Laurens: I don’t think we deliberately try to insert genres or influences in our music. We just write what sounds good or clicks for us, which makes writing together all the more rewarding. Influences of the stuff I’ve been listening to at the time of writing do unconsciously translate themselves though, but I don’t like thinking too much about it.
Laurens: I think Hendrik hits the nail on the head.
Hendrik: I’m sure we can manage, but having to take in account any possibility of course, we have made arrangements to ensure a smooth show. In our backstage cryo-freezer we’ve got three lookalike androids primed that we’ve given fashionable hairstyles and some of our old bandshirts. Bring out some free booze to the people in the front and you’ve got them all fooled. Then we can just hang back, relax, and not tune our instruments for the next show.
Jeffrey: We made a record that reflects on the concepts and different ways of dreaming and sleeping. Without realising the farce of what you are seeing, your mind shows you incredible things that you perceive as real, and it sometimes affects your mood in the morning or even through the entire day.
For my part in it, it was fun to create suggestive lyrics that follow the shattered logic of dreams and combine them with the shattered way we make our music. Just like dreams, the music is prone to impulsive, fickle decisions and things you would not normally fit together. To quote Mitch Hedberg: “I’m laying in my bed and next thing you know, I have to build a Go-Kart with my ex-landlord.”
“I’m laying in my bed and next thing you know, I have to build a Go-Kart with my ex-landlord.”
Coming from Ghent – is that important for a band like you as the city is getting more and more attention worldwide as one of the new epicenters of modern alternative music?
(If the city benefits you – can you explain how?)
Laurens: We’re spoiled here. There’s a show going on somewhere almost every day, and it’s all more or less within 20 minutes walking distance of each other. It’s insane. The only exception is August, when the whole city goes in shutdown for about a month, because of a ten day city-wide party in July. But even then other cities are close by. I remember having to miss Spectral Wound and Afsky in Kortrijk last month because I had class that evening, but hey, they were playing in Antwerp as well the day after, so I went to see them there. It’s a luxury. I guess it benefits us in the sense that we’re able to discover something new almost every week.
Hendrik: In no specific order of importance, to name a few: Brutus, Morbus Chron, Stake (formerly known as Steak Number Eight), The Comet Is Coming, Paul Kalkbrenner, Sonic Youth…
Laurens: Metallica, In Solitude, Absu, Burning Witch, Alkerdeel, Morbus Chron, Bathory,… It goes on. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of the stuff from Nordvis and Haeresis Noviomagi, as well as to Interpol and Sad Lovers and Giants.
Lee Ranaldo or Thurston Moore?
Jeffrey: Tough one, I feel like Sonic Youth works together as an inseparable unit. Nothing is overplayed, it feels as if they are all trying to play behind each other. If I’d have to choose, it would be Kim Gordon for her vicious vocal style. Honorable mention for Lee Ranaldo’s vocals and lyrics on “Mote”.
Jeffrey: Nevermind. I love the repetitive pummelling of songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Breed” and “On A Plain”.
Laurens: I’ve never really listened that much to Nirvana actually, I don’t know why.
Jeffrey: If Darkthrone is good ice cream, Behemoth is simply a bad piece of ice cream.
Hendrik: Amenra for sure, they’ve taken me on some spectacular trips, in all sorts of meaning of the word. The Devil’s Blood does have a different kind of beauty which I do treasure too.
Laurens: The Devil’s Blood, but Amenra holds a special place as well. Both bands strike some heavy chords for me.
Laurens: I’m definitely going next year. It’s an amazing festival, and I’ve been aching to see Oranssi Pazuzu (among others) live for a while. As for playing on festivals: as long as they have beer for breakfast, beer for lunch, and beer for dinner, I’m good.
A few months ago you performed at Retranchement together with Celestial Wolves and Swamp Machine – can you explain the location a bit because it was a bit difficult to understand through the graphic Facebook announcement?
"As long as they have beer for breakfast, beer for lunch, and beer for dinner, I’m good."
In general, how important is history to you? Obviously you named your band after a historic event.
Laurens: I’m studying history at the University here in Ghent, It’s where I’m learning how to count. So for me it’s important. Haha, I get that it sounds probable but Witch Trail isn’t named after that.
Jeffrey: The way we make our music hinges more on wonderment and curiosity than on wanting to fit in, and fitting in means not doing certain things. It’s not “anything goes” though. I recently managed to write something the rest of the band found too ridiculous to play, which is in a way a compliment.
Laurens: Thanks for having us. Likewise, hopefully soon!