White Ring - Gate of Grief

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2018-07-20
White Ring - Gate of Grief
White Ring - Gate of Grief

White Ring are an odd bird. After popping out a few singles during the initial popularity of witch house during the early 2010s, they essentially disappeared. But they weren't entirely dormant; rather, they were very slowly assembling tracks for their new album Gate of Grief. And while there is plenty of classic witch house sound to be found here, the band are willing to experiment and venture into lots of adjacent (and not so adjacent) genres, to their benefit and credit.

The band does a fine job of aping other artists throughout the set. Opening track 'Heavy Self Alienation' sounds just like Nine Inch Nails circa The Downward Spiral. In fact, it sounds uncannily similar to 'The Becoming' from that album, like an homage or remake. 'Leprosy' sounds like a forgotten Crystal Castles track: distorted banshee vocals, pounding beats, and twisted synths combine to create a deliciously disturbing soundscape. 'Burn It Down' travels back in time to the late 80s, with nasty Skinny Puppy vocals and exquisitely crusty synths.

'Puppy' is another standout, dark and witchy but with some excellent Lil'-Jon-style hip-hop shouting and a thunderous bassline, while the band take a more dancefloor-friendly approach on 'Close Yr Eyes', which blends the darkness with some fun house keys and beats. In a few different songs, such as 'Nothing' and 'Lasts In', they use a very distinctive alarm synth to great effect, giving the tunes a sense of inescapable urgency and tension. 'Home of the Brave' spirals into a glistening goth fantasy, with oppressive percussion and bass layered over by breathy vocals and shimmering iridescence.

Even with all the fascinating genre mashups, a core of witch house standards, if such a thing can exist at this early stage in the game, runs through the heart of the album. Tracks like 'Angels', which alternates between ghostly and gauzy, 'Fields of Hate', a slow-motion fall down a bottomless cemetery well, and 'Chained', an experience not unlike like having your face shoved through the snow of a dead TV channel, show the band are still quite adept at following the rules of the haunted house here and there. But final track 'Do U Love Me 2?' is another interesting switch-up, sounding a lot like the 80s synth-pop revival of the last decade or so, with a slow, melancholy synth line that would fit comfortably on an album by M83, and a relatively upbeat style. It's a surprisingly bright-eyed conclusion to a mostly dark and dreary (in a good way!) set.

Contrasts like these are what keep things sounding fresh over the fourteen tracks of the album. For a band that only made noise briefly and then fell off the radar completely, White Ring come off as more than competent despite their long absence. They clearly are full of both bold ideas and the ability to execute them. The album will satisfy all ten fans of witch house, but it will also provide plenty of entertainment for anyone inclined towards the broader electronic or industrial umbrella genres.

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