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You have to give Witchburner their dues for sticking to it for this long. Now in their 21st year of existence they deliver their 7th album of strictly Teutonic-styled Black/Thrash, the first one not to be released on Undercover/Evil Spell Records for whom they have been something of a house band. Despite this longevity that alone gives them veteran status over their younger contemporaries like Nocturnal, Blizzard and Cruel Force though they are still in most people's eyes not in that second tier of Germanic Thrash bands beneath the big 3 that includes such acts as Protector and Desaster. The reason for this is simple- if you own any of Witchburner's 6 previous albums save yourself some money and just listen to that again, because this new effort is probably pretty much identical to it.
Frankly the fact they have been doing this so long is no excuse for being so stoic in their repetitiveness and dullness- if anything that makes any excuse even more untenable. Not only are most of the tracks on here utilising the same tempo, drum patterns and chord progressions, but they have all been done to death on those previous albums too. Aside from “Master And Slave” where they adopt a more Exodus/Dark Angel sort of vibe with the squealing riffs, any semblance of diversity on this album is whispered rather than screamed. This track could've become the sing-a-long centrepiece to the record, but instead that simple chorus refrain of “I am the master- you are the slave” just isn't given enough breathing space.
It's the same story on “Never Surrender” where there is a Nifelheim-esque melodic streak trying to break out and “Possession” which has some vocal lines more akin to Tankard than any of the German big 3. Sometimes this hardline devotion to the big 3 sound pays off, like on the Pleasure To Kill-worshipping “Path Of The Sinner”, but on every other track it is a formula as immemorial as it is derivative. For an album that only clocks in at 35 minutes, Witchburner's shortest since 1998's Blasphemic Assault, it is almost ridiculous that their could be filler tracks like “Spirits Of The Dead” on here.
Again the argument that Witchburner have being doing this for so long that it doesn't matter is likely to surface, or even the claim that this is how Black/Thrash is supposed to sound and that formula shouldn't be tinkered with. There is ways they could shake up their sound though without ever going outside their key influences- for example, considering their biggest debt being owed to Destruction why is their no Shmier-like high screeches in the vocals? And if bands both older than they, such as Desaster, and younger such as Hellish Crossfire, can make killer and diverse records out of all the same raw elements then why can't Witchburner? The answer might simply be a lack of creativity and imagination. 21 years on and Witchburner haven't even come close to delivering a Black/Thrash genre-masterpiece, and that looks unlikely to ever change. [5/10]
From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts