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Karyn Crisis is a name that'll be familiar to some as frontwoman of Crisis, the death/thrash/hardcore band that released four albums between 1994 and 2004, before splitting in 2006. She will, of course, be familiar to others for her more recent Ephel Duath exploits, fronting said band on their final EP and album - 2012's 'On Death and Cosmos' and 2013's 'Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness' - following her marriage to Duath guitarist and main-man Davide Tiso. The two of them have now unleashed the results of their latest musically innovative venture, under the guise of Karyn Crisis' Gospel of the Witches, a full-length offering titled 'Salem's Wounds'.

First-off, I have to say, this is an extraordinarily marketable package. The band name, cover art and spiritual, occult-themed concept is geared towards engendering intrigue on so many different levels. Amidst the myriad of promo material that's made available for review each week, this one stood out immediately. I've been a longtime fan of Tiso's playing, ever since Ephel Duath's 'Phormula' in 2000, so I was naturally curious as to how his this latest chapter would fare within the context his genuinely progressive musical journey, although I'm sure it still would have grabbed my attention otherwise. And, to be rather blatant, this is fucking phenomenal stuff.

Loaded with innovatively imagined, yet enticingly accessible compositions, everything is so emotionally alluring in its execution. Through the affectively harmonious pairing of Crisis' widely expressive vocal range and Tiso's expansive, unimitative fretboard vocabulary, 'Salem's Wounds' is immersively captivating from start to finish. And it feels like an epically-charged journey but without succumbing to any musically obvious, epic traits; rather, it weaves its own tangentially idiomatic path in each and every track, progressing a whole gamut of inventive ideas within its uniquely created sonic space. I'd go as far to say I was as excited hearing this for the first time as I was when originally encountering 'The Painter's Palette' or 'Pain Necessary to Know'. 'Salem's Wounds' is way more accessible than both, particularly the latter, although this still adheres to originality in its most sincerest form of expression - a definite rarity these days.

Aside from Crisis and Tiso, Ross Dolan provides some backing death growls on various tracks (and is also bassist in the live band... Tiso performs all bass on the album); Charlie Schmid is the drummer; and Mike Hill also adds backing vocals to a couple of tracks (plus will act as second guitarist for live shows). However, it's the Crisis/Tiso pairing that shines here, with the former also responsible for the synths and programming that sporadically adorns the instrumentations. To try and describe their art in genre terms would be nothing but an injustice to its musically heterogeneous essence. Sure, it could loosely be described as "atmospheric, dark metal", but even that would not encapsulate the depth of emotions and stylistic diversity to be found in the songs' innovatory twists and turns. And the root of those emotions? Without engaging in too much over-analysis (for that ultimately undermines and mars the enjoyment of art, right?), Crisis' voice is astounding, through both its range and the profundity of emotional expression she's able to attain in every stylistic variation and nuance in her delivery. Coupled with Tiso's ever-inventive, musical vision and unorthodox fretboard ingenuity, and a suite of no-filler compositions, it makes for one musically potent experience of the most riveting and stimulating kinds. Very highly recommended.
Century Media
Review by Mark Holmes
9th March 2015
1) Omphalos; 2) The Alchemist
3) Ancient Ways; 4) Aradia
5) Mother; 6) Father
7) Goddess of Light
8) Howl at the Moon
9) Pillars
10) The Secret
11) Salem's Wounds
12) The Sword + The Stone
13) The Ascent
"...immersively captivating from start to finish."