When it became apparent that underground metal favorites Thorshammer had to shut down their operation, the group re-formed intact (except for vocalist Ozma and bassist James Hale) and charted a musical course both slower and heavier than their previous partnership. The resulting project became Burning Witch, one of extreme music's all-time slowest, lowest bands. Darker than doom metal, spookier than sludge, Burning Witch explored the most secluded corners of negativity and depression. Subsequent artists have matched this group's minimal approach to metal in terms of beats-per-minute and ridiculously detuned instrumentation, but Burning Witch recordings will perhaps always be known for their unmatched reach into the maudlin depths of fear, paranoia, and the entire range of sour human emotion.
After putting the cult success that was Thorshammer to rest in 1995, guitarists Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson (the latter formerly of the post-rock Engine Kid) along with drummer Jamie Sykes formed Burning Witch with the explicit intention of topping their previous unit in terms of heaviness. The trio came one step closer to its lofty goal when bassist G. Stuart Dahlquist and vocalist Edgy 59 signed on to the project. Anderson left to form the stoner group Goatsnake before the completion of any meaningful Burning Witch recordings. The band then carried on with only one guitarist and in 1996, they recorded their debut EP, Towers, with white-hot "alternative" producer Steve Albini (the Pixies, Big Black, PJ Harvey, Nirvana, etc.) Like the work of Thorshammer before, Towers was an instant sensation all along the hard music fringe. Doom/sludge fans were obsessed with the record's challenge to the concepts of rock structure and form. The band followed up their debut with another EP the following year entitled Rift.Canyon.Dreams, an even more experimental effort. This 1997 release utilized complex but still heavy and repetitive riffing to achieve a more mature but equally punishing sound. Sykes was replaced by drummer B.R.A.D. for the Rift.Canyon.Dreams sessions. Then, just after their second disc was finished, Burning Witch disbanded in 1997. A year later, both of the group's recordings were combined on one CD and released on O'Malley's and former guitarist Anderson's new Southern Lord stoner/doom specialty label. The strength of this compilation -- entitled Crippled Lucifer (Seven Psalms for Our Lord of Light) -- was a key factor that lead to the label's commercial viability. Surprised by the success, Southern Lord's founders began signing more bands and subsequently grew to become one of their genre's most important musical hubs. This fact alone secures Burning Witch a certain amount of historical significance within the stoner/doom community. A couple of the defunct group's tracks that hadn't been released were put on a Hydra Head Records split with Goatsnake in 2000, pretty much completing Burning Witch's discography. Besides running Southern Lord, O'Malley and Anderson keep busy with their ambient/doom experimental project Sunn 0))). Anderson also continued on with Goatsnake, with whom Dahlquist hooked up with in 2000. Edgy 59 also moved on to form Sinisstar. ~ Vincent Jeffries