Live Review: Bell Witch – Manchester

Live Review: Bell Witch - Rebellion, Manchester
13th April 2023
Support: Knoll
Words: Sam Jones
Photos: Bill Mawdsley

When Knoll took to the stage, it was striking how little fanfare was made upon their taking the stage. One moment we were drinking, the next were being assailed by this absolutely demonic vocal performance, soon bringing us down to the audience pit. I soon realised this wasn’t the kind of band where pits would be breaking out every other moment; Knoll’s performance is visceral to the letter and utterly without compromise.

The instrumentation hangs back, albeit still delivering ruthlessly piercing displays of extreme metal but the star of the performance lies in the vocals. There’s not a word here that’s decipherable but that doesn’t matter for the crowd are utterly captivated, immersed, within this night of seething, searing savagery. Even between songs, the band do not break character. For the full duration of their set, Knoll maintain this Victorian/Gothic aesthetic that’s really unique right now, morphing into this rogue wave that grew and crashed down on us. By the time their set finished, you felt like you could breathe again; all the air had been released back into the venue. It was a great time.

Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley

Like Knoll, Bell Witch barely announce themselves upon the stage; only the overture of keyboards marks the beginning of their set. Playing The Clandestine Gate, a track over an hour long, is a serious undertaking yet the two guys up on stage make it seem effortless, with entire sections being several minutes long it’s a moment before the first bass note is played and thus the band wash over us like a flood.

Listening to their studio material on record is one thing, experiencing it live is quite another where there’s nothing between yourself and the band. Bell Witch effectively render themselves utterly naked before you where little semblance of illusionary power is suggested; it’s less visceral and much more melancholic. Like Knoll, there’s no interaction with the crowd and owing to the totality of the band’s power washing over us, there’s no escape from their performance.

Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley

I don’t recall myself being so captivated, so enthralled by the anticipation of a single note or a single drum strike. Bell Witch place huge emphasis on deliberate notes where each individual chord played feels massive in weight and purposefully placed to serve the greater track. But, over time, as the music continues, you seemingly find yourself being transported out of the room you’re in and brought into the soundscape Bell Witch conjure; it’s one where your jaw is rendered agape, you’re made motionless and you can only stand there taking it all in.

I jokingly remarked we’d see some Funeral Doom pits, but following their performance it’d be a disservice to their professionalism should one attempt to start up. I can see why so many swear by their live performances. It’s absolutely beautiful. I managed to thank them afterwards, following an eruption of applause and support from the crowd. It’s a very different vibe than what I usually attend, but what an experience it was.

Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley
Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley

Photo credits: Bill Mawdsley

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