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So Cult of Daath are back from a five year dry spell, and it seems they've decided to change their sound a bit. Doomed by the Witch witnesses the band dropping some of their black metal influences in favour of an old-school death/thrash sound. Three original tracks, one instrumental, and one cover may not be enough material to justify such an assumption, but I don't care because this demo rules. Doomed by the Witch is a perfect example of how to pay tribute to the forefathers of extreme metal without resorting to shameless imitation.
If you're familiar with Cult of Daath's previous work, Obscurum's vocal approach on this release may surprise you a bit. While his performance on Slit Throats and Ritual Nights brought to mind the early Norwegian scene, this release contains a much more guttural vocal approach. This is fine, because Doomed by the Witch is a demo which places a lot of emphasis on the lower end of the sound spectrum. That being said, I can't help but wonder if the more high-pitched and distorted vocals found on other CoD releases may have given this demo a more unique feel. Combining the ferocity of Obscurum's former vocal style with the band's new approach could yield some interesting results.
Immortum's guitar and bass on this album contribute classic riff-oriented work, with plenty of tremolo leads to keep things grim and frostbitten. From Temple to Abyss starts things off right, balancing massive bass-heavy riffs with some cool guitar leads and a devastatingly brutal pace. Each track has a really great balance of both instruments, and it's particularly nice to see that the bass hasn't been buried in the mix. Rumination I is a cool, albeit simple, guitar interlude that gives this short release a bit more depth and variety, while the title track can best be described as Possessed with equal parts Darkthrone and Venom. Spell Thrust is a lot of fun, incorporating more fast-paced riffs which reek of alcohol and 80's nostalgia. Finally, the band finishes things off with a cover of Profanatica's As Tears of Blood Stain the Altar of Christ. Considering the song is both an instrumental AND a cover, there's not a lot to say here; it's a cool track, and ends the demo on a notably “black metal” note. The last thing worth noting on this album, as with all Cult of Daath releases, is Obscurum's drumming. This guy knows how to drum, and doesn't feel the need to play as fast as humanly possible to convey a sense of brutality. I love the production on the bass drum(s) in particular, and his accenting is top notch. Though he rarely strays from fairly standard d-beat patterns, they fit the music perfectly and there's enough variation here to keep things interesting.
So there you have it. Cult of Daath are back, presumably, and playing a style of black metal firmly rooted in the foundations of the genre. I, for one, welcome this change but encourage the band to experiment with their sound a bit more. Apart from the aforementioned possibility of mixing up the vocals a bit, the band needs to be more productive! This demo came out two years ago, and so far the band has yet to record anything new. Cult of Daath are a great band, and I look forward to hearing more from them in the near future. Hurry up, guys.