posted on 8/2010 By:
To be honest, I am surprised Witchery is still at it. The band’s up-tempo, thrashy sound, tongue in cheek lyrics, and generally irreverent attitude were breath of fresh air in the late nineties, a time when thrash was dead, death metal was starting to stagnate and black metal was continuing crawl ever further up its own ass. Witchery’s formula served them well for three albums, from the 1998 debut Restless and Dead through 2001’s Symphony for the Devil. While none of those albums could really be called classics, they were all seriously good metal and not-so-serious good fun. The band took five years off, likely due to main man Jensen’s and bassist Sharlee D’Angelo’s commitments to The Haunted and Arch Enemy respectively, before releasing 2006’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. By then, every thrash band that ever existed had reformed and host of newcomers had begun to crop up as well. So, while 'Reaper was a solid album, Witchery’s style had lost much of its novelty. Thus, after four years of silence, I figured Witchery had decided to leave the thrashing to the full-timers. But, lo and behold, Witchery has returned, this time with a new singer in the form of Marduk alumnus Legion, and a new album entitled Witchkrieg.
In the four years since the release of Don’t Fear the Reaper, the market for thrash metal has not grown any less competitive, but Witchery has not undertaken any grand stylistic changes in the hope of broadening its appeal. Despite more guest performances than a hip-hop album and a new singer, Witchkrieg is a Witchery record in the same vein as all that came before. I had my doubts about Legion, but his performance on Witch Krieg proves him to be a more dynamic and charismatic singer than his work with Marduk might suggest. That said, former vocalist Toxine’s delivery had a little more cock-rock swagger to it, which fit the band’s vibe better. In the end, though, the change in vocalists amounts to little more than swapping one raspy voice for another.
The performance on Witchkrieg is everything one would expect from a talented veteran act of Witchery’s caliber. Jensen’s riffs still have plenty of teeth, Richard Corpse’s leads still have plenty of sting and D’Angelo and drummer Martin Axenrot put the thumps in all the right places. For his part, producer Tue Madsen performs to standard, giving the album a bright, punchy sound with enough grit to avoid sounding sterile.
With all the other pieces in place, the only other thing necessary to make Witchkrieg a success is a decent batch of songs. And that is just what Witchery has given us: a decent batch of songs, not great, not spectacular, just decent. The band is at its strongest on go- for-the-throat numbers such as the title track--which is not at all enhanced by a Kerry King guest solo--and “The Reaver,” which benefits from the presence of Gary Holt and Lee Altus. When the band opts, all too often, for a mid-paced approach, it seems to lose its mojo. Even Mercyful Fate’s Hank Sherman cannot light a fire under “The God Who Fell from Earth.” “The Devil Rides Out” and “One Foot in the Grave” are likewise dead in the water, victims of too much groove and too little thrash. By the time “Witch Hunter” closes the album out my attention has long since wandered.
Witchkrieg is not a steaming pile; far from it. If Witchkrieg were made by another band it would be a respectable achievement. But Witchery, by virtue of its wealth of talent and experience, is held to a higher standard. Respectable is not good enough; this album should rip my fucking face off, but, alas, it does not. If the four year absence has left you desperate for a Witchery fix, Witchkrieg will do the trick, but for the average fan this album is nowhere near essential.
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