7/14/2010 - Review by: Eric Compton
Sweden's premier supergroup is back in the trenches again, this time leading the all-out assault with "Witchkrieg". The band have provided bare bones thrash metal for the country since 1997, releasing three full-lengths and an EP in an effort to showcase modern thrash metal. Witchery's foundation is cultivated from other bands, most notably Satanic Slaughter, Opeth, Bloodbath and The Haunted. The band sees this release on Century Media records and marks the first recording with new vocalist Legion (Marduk). "Witchkrieg" was produced by the acclaimed Tue Madsen at Antfarm Studios (Mnemic, Dark Tranquillity, Callenish Circle).
Unlike other acts that try to cash in every year with some sort of album, live recording or EP, Witchery are the exact opposite. The group have managed to release only three albums in a decade, opting to really concentrate on each song and craft a stellar album as opposed to just releasing quantity over quality. Obviously Witchery is simply a side-project for the band members, with all of these guys active with full time bands. Still the end result is an album that is memorable and really fluid with creative direction and sound ideals. When you hear a Witchery album you absolutely expect the very best Sweden has to offer. "Witchkrieg" is absolutely aces high in that regard.
This album probably has more in common with extreme acts like Vader and Hypocrisy than Slayer. In years past the band has concentrated efforts on delivering top notch thrash, evident on the first two full lengths. By 2006 the group had started to explore more extreme measures, identifying with the Swedish death crowd more and more. The band released "Don't Fear The Reaper" around this time period and showed the act incorporating more moody atmospheric textures and a good sense of eccentric black metal ala Satyricon or Emperor. By no means would one compare Witchery to black metal, but the band does fuse some of the same tendencies used in that genre. With this new album the band proceeds to do more of that, with new vocalist Legion bringing a black metal scream made famous by his participation with Marduk as well as the trademark blast beats and double bass.
The album's opening title track is the perfect indication of where Witchery's black heart lies. The track pounds with trigger-happy double bass and Legion's blackened screams. The chugging Slayer-esque riffs from Rimfalt and Jensen trade off to a barrage attack made famous by extreme acts like Vader and Behemoth. Slayer's very own Kerry King steps in for a wild guest solo. "The God Who Fell From Earth" really continues that extreme metal direction, inviting a slower more atmospheric dynamic to change the mood. Legion's whispered vocals recall Cradle Of Filth or Satyricon and Mercyful Fate's Hank Shermann steps in with another guest solo. Those looking for more traditional thrash moshings will delight in "Devil Rides Out", "Hellhound" and the pulverizing "The Reaver". The band mix it up really well with "Conqueror's Return" and the King Diamond styled "From Dead To Worse" (with guest solo from Andy LaRocque). Other guest guitarists include Exodus' partners Lee Altus and Gary Holt as well as ex-Dark Angel axeman Jim Durkin.
The Bottom Line - This is absolutely the best I've heard from Witchery. "Witchkrieg" proves that a band can still be relevant in a crowded scene by creating a unique sound and constantly evolving. This is a phenomenal release and surely a nominee for best record of 2010!
7/14/2010 - Review by: Greg Watson
I have long been a fan of Witchery since I first picked up "Witchburner" back in the day. I saw this while trolling the metal section in one of my music haunts and snagged it. I threw it in the CD player, closed my eyes to prepare for the onslaught and then did a double take. The vocals were not the same, something was different. I looked through the liner notes and saw that Toxine was no longer handling vox, that it was now Legion of Marduk infamy singing.
So, that's how I found out about the new line up. That being said, I had a little bias listening to the album with no Toxine (sorry Legion), but was fairly happy with the album's content. The band shows no signs of slowing down as they continue to blast full steam ahead. Jensen and Rickard Rimfalt handle the guitar duties and deliver punishing riffs and shredding guitar solos. The guitar work has always gotten me on each release these guys have done. And to add a little more to the pot, there are guest guitarists galore on this album.
Slayer's Kerry King, Andy Larocque and Hank Sherman of King Diamond, Jim Durkin, Gary Holt and Lee Altus. Arch Enemy fans will recognize the bass of Sharlee D'Angelo filling in nicely on the back end. And Opeth listeners will remember Martin Axe and his blast beats as the pound your skull through each song. The enigma for me on this album was Legion. I was very surprised at how well his vocals sounded. No longer is it unintelligible squeals and grunts. His death metal growls can hang with the best and his black metal screams have become even more demonic than his name suggests.
But the downfall for this album is the repetitiveness of the songs. The album flows great but feels like one long song, broken up at times with a flashy solo. I'm glad to see the band still kicking but would have loved to have heard some black metal elements thrown in to add to Legion's vocals. That being said, this is still a decent album and follows Witchery's formula. Satanic lyrics, heavy, crushing guitar and bombastic drums. If you're looking for something to make you cower in the corner or just something heavy overall, go pick this up.
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