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Mirror Reaper
Mirror Reaper
As Above, So Below.
Studio album by Bell Witch
Released October 20 2017
Recorded at Hallowed Halls in Portland, Oregon
Genre Funeral Doom Metal
Length 83:15
Label Profound Lore Records
Producer Bell Witch, Billy Anderson
Bell Witch chronology
Four Phantoms
(2015)
Mirror Reaper
(2017)
Live At Roadburn 2015
(2018)

Mirror Reaper is the third studio album by Bell Witch, released on 20 October 2017 via Profound Lore Records. It would be released through physical media as a double album and in digital as it's intended form, a single song spanning nearly eighty-four minutes. Notably it would be the band's first release following the death of original drummer Adrian Guerra[1] and serves as a tribute to him.[2]

Mirror Reaper would see significant critical acclaim upon it's release and top several "best of" lists among a wide array of publications.[3]

BackgroundEdit

Writing and RecordingEdit

Following the release of the acclaimed Four Phantoms in 2014, Bell Witch would tour Europe and North America in support. However before a tour of North America alongside Wrekmeister Harmonies and the recording of the next album, drummer and co-founder Adrian Guerra would leave the band due to health concerns. He would be replaced by Jesse Shreibman on drums. Desmond and Shreibman began brainstorming a two-part song built around a single repeating riff, its movements titled "As Above" and "So Below." At the halfway point, the song would double back on itself, playing darker reflections of earlier sections in reverse order. [4] Guerra died on 15 May 2016, aged 35.[5] When news of the death of Guerra reached the band, the tone for the record shifted,[6] as indicated in an official statement:

"During the writing process we were devastated by the loss of our dear friend and former drummer, Adrian Guerra. In love and respect to his memory, we reserved an important yet brief section in the song for him that features unused vocal tracks from our last album. This specific movement serves as a conceptual turn in the piece, or point of reflection. We believe he would be proud of it as well."
 
— Bell Witch, Official Statement[7]

Mirror Reaper was conceived as a single 80+ minute song. However due to the limitations on Vinyl, CD and Cassette, only the digital version presents the song completely unabridged. Musically, Mirror Reaper is an extended composition focused on a fittingly gloomy mood. In the fashion of Bell Witch only bass, drums and vocals are used with exception to occasional use of Hammond Organ. In terms of vocals, drummer Jesse Shreibman provides low, guttural death growls while Bassist Dylan Desmond handles the cleaner vocals. Halfway through the album, in a section titled "The Words of the Dead", vocals from former drummer Adrian Guerra appear, having been recorded and cut from the band's previous album. Mirror Reaper closes with a section featuring recurring guest Erik Moggridge (Aerial Ruin), singing somberly and gently. [8]

In an interview with Distorted Sound Magazine, Shreibman and Desmond both speak about the challenging process and working in Guerra's vocals:

"[Desmond, on pushing musical boundaries] As musicians, yes. It was a challenge to make so much material ventured around the same musical theme, and I’d say we both grew in that regard because of it. It was a great way for Jesse and I to become accustomed to writing music together, also. In writing Four Phantoms, which was written to be two songs in two movements, I wanted to expand on the idea and make it more tangible and connected.

[Shreibman] In the writing of Mirror Reaper we definitely wanted to do something different from Four Phantoms, while still staying true to the sound of BELL WITCH prior. Because this was the first time Dylan and I had written an album together, we weren’t sure how it would sound. I wanted to add the organ for this very reason. My goal as a new member in the band was to have the sound remain consistent with the previous releases, but unique as well.

[Desmond, on Guerra's section] The riff Adrian’s vocals appear on was originally scrapped because it sounded too close to another riff from Four Phantoms. We manipulated it and adjusted it enough that it stood solid on its own and fit into the riffs surrounding it. In that process it became a bit of a peak from which we could center the song around. Conceptually putting Adrian’s vocals in the middle fit better than anywhere else, as the piece sort of flips into a reflection of the part before it at this point. We had to chop his vocals up a bit to make them fit. Billy Anderson, who engineered the album, did a fantastic job with this. He also recorded Four Phantoms, so we were able to dig into it and find pieces that fit in length and intensity.

[Shreibman] I feel like the writing of this album relied heavily on experimentation and challenging ourselves. As we were feeling out riffs, melodies, rhythms, and placement of those said factors, we tried to make sure to never fully commit to anything until it absolutely felt right to both of us. We wanted to make sure that the “feel” of the song never changed, despite tempo variations, riff changes, or changes in tone."

 
— Bell Witch, Distorted Sound Magazine[9]

Mirror Reaper's artwork, a painting titled "Essence of Freedom" by Polish artist Mariusz Lewandowski, strongly resembling the works of Zdzisław Beksiński, who is Lewandowski's primary inspiration.

Release and ReceptionEdit

Mirror Reaper was met with critical acclaim. The album received an average score of 85/100 from 6 reviews on Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim".[10] Sasha Geffen of Pitchfork, awarding the album an 8.0/10, would state: "Mourning overwhelms the mourner; it often feels as though it is the whole world. Mirror Reaper simulates that totality of grief, but it also transcends its own function as a eulogy.".[11] Writing for PopMatters, Thomas Britt praised the meaningfulness of the song's protracted length, saying, "The concluding impression, through repeated listens, is that Mirror Reaper is appropriately scaled to its subject and stakes [...] Implicitly, the record poses the question: If this hour-plus feels long, what must forever feel like?"[12][13]

Lastly, Cole Firth wrote for Exclaim! (Awarding the album an 8.0/10), "Mirror Reaper is certainly an outstanding accomplishment in the Bell Witch catalogue. It may be their most emotionally stirring and musically ambitious record to date."[14] Other critics and reviewers whom praised the album were among the likes of Metal Injection,[15] Spectrum Culture (4/5),[16] This Is Darkness,[17] Angry Metal Guy,[18] Indy Metal Vault[19] and A.V. Club (A-).[20] Notably the band were surprised by the overwhelming positive reception and bracing for negativity, reflecting on the reception as very humbling in an interview with CVLT Nation.[21]

Ultimately Mirror Reaper would make high marks on several publications' year-end lists. Notably while it reached #7 on the Readers' Year-End Poll,[22] Mirror Reaper would be awarded "Song of The Year" by The Obelisk.[23] Other year-end lists Mirror Reaper would appear on would include #11 on Decibel Magazine's Top 40 albums of 2017,[24] #13 on Rolling Stone's Top 20 Metal Albums of 2017,[25] #10 on Loudwire's 25 Best Metal Albums of 2017,[26] #5 on The Quietus' Best Metal Albums of 2017[27] and Exclaim's Top Ten Hardcore and Metal Albums.[28] Finally, Mirror Reaper would be listed at #1 on Popmatters' Best Metal Albums of 2017.[29]

Live Performances and TouringEdit

In terms of live performances Bell Witch would largely perform roughly half of the song on tour due to time limitations. However at the 2018 edition of Roadburn Festival Bell Witch would perform the entirety of the song for the first time with Erik Moggridge. On 15 November 2018, two months after a headlining tour of Europe was announced for the Fall,[30] Profound Lore Records would release a visual album of "Mirror Reaper". Directed and edited by Taylor Bednarz and comprised of antique, archival and public domain footage, this visual album would be presented to compliment on the band's fall theater tour where Mirror Reaper was performed in full.[31]

Mirror Reaper

Mirror Reaper

BELL WITCH - Mirror Reaper (Official Visual Album)

BELL WITCH - Mirror Reaper (Official Visual Album)

TracklistEdit

Digital VersionEdit

  • 1. Mirror Reaper (83:15)

Profound Lore CDEdit

  • 1. Mirror Reaper Pt. 1 - As Above (48:13)
  • 2. Mirror Reaper Pt. 2 - So Below (35:30)

Profound Lore LPEdit

  • 1. As (17:19)
  • 2. Above (21:01)
  • 3. So (22:29)
  • 4. Below (23:03)

PersonnelEdit

  • Dylan Desmond - Bass, Vocals
  • Jesse Shreibman - Drums, Organ, Vocals
  • Erik Moddridge - Additional Vocals
  • Adrian Guerra - Additional Vocals ("The Words of The Dead")
  • Billy Anderson - Engineer, Mixing, Producer
  • Justin Weis - Mastering
  • Mariusz Lewandowski - Artwork
  • Taylor Bednarz - Live Video, Film

External LinksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Pop Matters
  2. Vice
  3. Metacritic
  4. Vice
  5. Metal Injection
  6. Riot Fest
  7. [Mirror Reaper (Digital liner notes). Bell Witch. 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2018.] accessed 13 February 2020
  8. AV Club
  9. Distorted Sound Magazine accessed 13 February 2020
  10. Metacritic
  11. Pitchfork
  12. Popmatters
  13. Popmatters
  14. Exclaim!
  15. Metal Injection
  16. Spectrum Culture
  17. This Is Darkness
  18. Angry Metal Guy
  19. Indy Metal Vault
  20. A.V. Club
  21. CVLT Nation
  22. The Obelisk
  23. The Obelisk
  24. Decibel Magazine
  25. Rolling Stone
  26. Loudwire
  27. The Quietus
  28. Exclaim!
  29. Popmatters
  30. Ghost Cult Magazine
  31. Riff Relevant
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