posted on 1/2012 By:
It’s a shame that bands-doing-the-old-thing-better-than-the-old-guys-still-do-it never get much appreciation. (Or is it? Here at least, it is.) San Ber’dino’s Witchaven is a fine example of such. Put simply, they play slightly blackened thrash, had the term been coined in 1985. They owe a massive and obvious debt to Hell Awaits- and Reign In Blood-era Slayer, and probably do a better job at the style than anything Slayer itself has written in at least 15 years. Toss in a good amount of early Sodom and the proto-black metal of the times, and you get some seriously razor-wired, unrelenting metal for the old guard. It’s nasty, to-the-point, cutthroat, and for a handful of you out there, a good reason to pull out your bullet belt and get absolutely ripshit on cheap whiskey.
All of the blatant aping on Terrorstorm would be damning in the hands of a band with less understanding of their roots, but Witchaven fucking gets it. They get that a clear-yet-raw production is far more effective for their brand of chaos than an Andy Sneap board job. They get that drumming need not be played with a ten ton wallop but with a keen ear for placement (and a massive appreciation for the ride cymbal). They get that even an extremely simplistic riff or speed-picked pattern can work wonders when paired with said drumming. And they get that some harsh-as-hell, echoing black metal vocals work as well over this thrashing template as they do over Norway’s finest.
“Black Thrash Assault” basically offers up the template of what Witchaven is doing here: some blinding speed in the riffage, a punchy chorus and a tried-and-true finger-bleeding approach to noisy soloing. Certain songs (“Conflagration” and “Unholy Copulation”) increase the blackened aura a tad, but for the most part the King-and-Hanneman worship dominates. While not without its faults – a lack of variation and a sometimes puzzling drum production come to mind – Terrorstorm packs enough of a crunch punch within its brisk 35 minutes to render such minor complaints moot. Plus, there is a certain charm to how this entire thing is a bit of an uncalculated frenzy, and the right type of listener will be drawn right in.
The fact that Witchaven isn’t meant to break down any walls goes without saying, and they might even sound old fashioned to the Warbringer camp of Kreator revivalists. Regardless, it’s a great trip back to thrash that prefers causing a good scare over impressing musically. Slap the Slayer logo on Terrorstorm and watch people call it the comeback of the decade. Keep the Witchaven one there and call it a bitchin’ good debut from a band that clearly burns with the desire to reduce their surroundings into a fine soot.
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