Invoking both boundlessness and claustrophobia in the same charged gesture, Bell Witch cultivates a sense of time outside of time, an oasis inside an increasingly frenetic media culture.
Today they announce new album, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate. Like 2017’s lauded Mirror Reaper, The Clandestine Gate is a single 83-minute track — a composition that pulses and breathes on a filmic timeframe. It constitutes the first chapter in a planned triptych of longform albums, collectively called Future’s Shadow.
“Eventually, the end of the last album will be looped around to the first to make a circle,” says bassist Dylan Desmond of the triptych. “It can be continuously looped, like a day cycle. This would be dawn. The next one would be noon. The following one would be sundown, with dawn and sundown both having something of night.”
While traces of organ and synthesizer hovered over Mirror Reaper and Bell Witch’s 2020 collaboration with Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Volume 1, The Clandestine Gate drew those instruments closer to the center of its compositions. “We started experimenting with letting more of the elements shine on their own,” says drummer Jesse Shreibman. The band reunited with their longtime producer Billy Anderson as they began negotiating these new compositional weights. The record begins with an eight-minute organ passage that builds slowly, like the susurrations of dawn, before Desmond’s distortion-choked bass cleaves it open. Throughout their new material, Shreibman and Desmond also took the opportunity to implement new vocal strategies. “I wanted the vocals to be more active, rather than being on top of the soundscape,” notes Shreibman. On The Clandestine Gate, Bell Witch’s twinned voices build off of the chantlike textures of previous records while steering toward more developed melodic lines, structured harmonies, and rhythmic death metal growls.
The expansive scale of Future’s Shadow gave Bell Witch more leeway to plumb themes that have long percolated throughout their work. The concept of eternal return — that time doesn’t end, and death doesn’t punctuate life, but both go on forever in an infinite loop no one can remember — inflected the development of The Clandestine Gate after Desmond encountered the idea in Nietzche’s book, The Gay Science. The glacially paced films of 20th century Russian director, Andrei Tarkovsky similarly supplied a framework for the movements of The Clandestine Gate and Future’s Shadow as a whole.
Simple actions — carrying a candle across a room, tossing a metal nut into an overgrown field — carry life-and-death weight, a strategy echoed in Bell Witch’s suspension of minimal melodies across planetary expanses.
The immense gravity of a work like The Clandestine Gate allows these ideas to simmer in a way that feels profoundly and somatically intuitive — not just a philosophical exercise, but an embodied truth. By slowing down both their creative process and the tempo of the music itself, Bell Witch digs even deeper into their long standing focus: the way life spills on inside its minuscule container, both eternal and fleeting, a chord that echoes without resolution. As both the beginning and end of the Future’s Shadow triptych, The Clandestine Gate opens a new chapter in Bell Witch’s macroscopic minimalism: the start of a yawning orbit around an increasingly massive core.