Release DetailsLABEL Century Media
RELEASED ON 3/21/2006
Don't Fear the Reaper
posted on 3/2006 By:
Three years ago, I risked my entire welfare on this album, or at least, the promise of it. That was when I took a job with Necropolis Records. I had two primary objectives in mind: help turn the label around and promote the living hell out of the hotly anticipated new Witchery album, which at the time was probably still just a glimmer in Patrik Jensen’s eye. Well, long story short, I accomplished neither goal. A little over a year later, the infamous label closed its doors and went on indefinite hiatus. Anyone who knows the recent history of the label knows the circumstances and it’s not like I can really be blamed. But I’m getting off track here. So with the closing, Jensen took the band to the home of his other band, The Haunted, Century Media Records, and the album I’d been waiting three years for was finally here. Hey, at least I get to review it, right?
Jensen has said in interviews that in writing for The Haunted, he’ll sometimes come up with a riff that is just too good, and he’ll put it aside for Witchery. You can hear a lot of that here – riff-driven thrash that just gets better each time you hear it. Toxine’s vocals are more black than thrash, but just seethe of evil, which is great. Fattening up the sound is Sharlee D’Angelo, who gets such a big sound out of that Rickenbacher bass that it can’t be ignored and is actually a big part of the Witchery sound, setting them apart from their contemporaries. After all, how often can you actually hear the bass in thrash? New on drums this time around is veteran Martin Axenrot, best known currently for his work with Bloodbath, a hard-hitting skinsman who fits in perfectly. Rounding out the lineup is guitarist Richard Corpse, who proves to be a more than ample foil to the riff-happy Jensen.
The album starts off with the aptly-titled instrumental “Disturbing the Beast”, which serves more as an intro to “Stigmatized” than as a stand-alone track, but it sets the right mood for what is to come. The latter track proves that nothing has changed in the five years since Symphony for the Devil, that this is the same Witchery we remember – no dilution from the members’ multiple other projects. I never found fault in their production before, but somehow they’ve improved on it here. It’s subtle but I think you’ll pick up on it. “The Ritual” is driven along by the rhythm section of D’Angelo and Axenrot while the guitarists sort of noodle over it while Toxine spews his venom all over the place. The next track, “Ashes”, brings in symphonic keyboards for the first time (that I can remember) and they fit like a glove, setting a perfectly menacing tone for this mid-paced slab of evil. Also of note is “Plague Rider”, which is more of a straightforward thrash number, but it’s where this band really excels. The instrumental “The Wait of the Pyramids” belongs on the soundtrack to Hell, or at least in the tombs of the most evil pharaohs and other mummified folk. The 1-2 punch of the instrumental “War Piece” and “Cannon Fodder” closes the album proper, the former being a perfect introduction to the Slayer-esque latter. Actually, though, the album (or at least the American version) closes with a cover of Satanic Slaughter’s “Legion of Hades”, almost a tradition now seeing as 3/5 of this band were the original Satanic Slaughter. Everyone else only gets one SS cover, “Immortal Death”, featured earlier on the disc.
I don’t know if those ratings above are truly accurate, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to give Witchery the mighty 666. Frankly, anything else would have just looked plain wrong. They have long been one of the best kept secrets in the underground, but all that may be about to change with this, possibly their strongest album yet, and of course the increased exposure they’ll get from their association with Century Media Records. Bear witness now to one of the best bands going today, and soon you’ll find yourself doing the ‘W’ with skeletonized mascot Ben Wrangle.
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