The Wytches


The Wytches are one of the hottest properties in the country with a dark, ominous sound as occultish as their name would suggest. They mix surf guitar and a grungy psych rock, breaking out the Ouija board and channelling the furious, restless spirit of a brutally murdered Dick Dale on their debut Annabel Dream Reader; a nightmarish delight, drawing praise from all quarters.

They pack a punch and have packed out The Deaf Institute; the gig’s been sold out for weeks, it’s standing room only as the crowd perspires and waits in the cold late November. Cartoon tendrils surround the band name, curved on the backdrop. They too look like a stylised, anime vision of a grunge band; totally faceless behind their own tendrils of long dark hair. Hirsute and anonymous, vocalist Kristian Bell, head bowed and hair hanging, opens his mouth Steven-Tyler-wide to swallow you on opener ‘Burn Out The Bruise’.

It’s a frenetic opening; the band gleefully hurt their instruments, which wail in return. The crowd respond, whipping themselves into a chest beating frenzy, jumping and howling to every chord change with the passion and cadence of the football terraces. They continue to play fast and hard, treating guitars like they hate them; (incredibly named) drummer Gianni Honey discards his shirt almost immediately, and proceeds open armed and flailing.

Bell bares his tonsils again on ‘Beehive Queen’ and the terraces chant again, pure white strobes mirroring the abrasive sound. Guitar sounds tinny, scratched out, soaked through with reverb, delay bouncing off the walls. It’s The Wytches’ signature; vibrato rich surf-style juxtaposed with their violent grunge spirit. The deranged combination of light and dark sends shivers down your spine; like a murder in a funhouse, like Steven King’s IT, it’s the same midnight-carnival, sinister violence.

Live however, they sometimes trade off a little of that darkness in favour of a heavy gut-punch. On record, vocals have a creepy vibrato charm, with the deranged passion of pure insanity. Whilst something of that is lost, replaced with a powerful caterwaul, they still make a tremendous noise for a three piece, inspiring utter madness towards the front. One woman climbs on stage between the two guitarists, is touched lightly on the arm by a stagehand and throws herself face first, fall barely broken by the crowd. One set of flailing legs crowdsurfs laterally during highlight ‘Wide at Midnight’ as Bell holds his guitar high on the neck and mutilates it as if possessed.

It’s the sparser moments on ‘Wide at Midnight’ and the equally impressive ‘Gravedweller’ where the band manage to replicate the feel of the album however. On the verses, short stabs of tightly wound guitar eddy around the art deco walls, laden with delay, and dive deep as Bell works the whammy bar. When he isn’t putting you off your dinner, the bass is left to plod alone deep and ominous. When they want to, on the chorus, the unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach rises, and the contrast makes their power all the more profound. They can do loud, as we know by now.

The set lags only slightly at the mid-point, but then they only have one album’s worth of material to draw from. Despite this, they play with misanthropic passion and the energy you would expect from their first trip on the merry go round: a first tour is something of a double edged sword.  It’s an imperfect live show, but one deserving of the plaudits, and the crowd respond in spades. Limbs, long hair, shirts and hoarse voices litter the air on closing track ‘Crying Clown’: a 21 gun salute that sends the band on their way with sweat pouring on and off the stage, only to chill in the air outside.

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John Platt

John was raised between Mum's Motown and Dad's Hawkwind, and likes words almost as much as music. Below are some carefully chosen words about some music John particularly likes.