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Previous Witchery albums, although certainly evil sounding in their own right, often maintained a morbid sense of humor about them that gave the impression the band didn’t always take themselves too seriously. Around five years has passed since the release of the group’s last studio effort, “Symphony For The Devil” and Witchery has grown a great deal more serious in the meantime. “Don’t Fear The Reaper” is easily the band’s darkest themed record yet.
As always, Tue Madsen makes the difference at the mixing desk and for the first time, the band has managed to come up with a record that you need not be a Witchery fan to appreciate out-of-hand. Seeking a musical middle ground in comparision to their past efforts, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” sees Witchery taking advantage of slower tempos at times but the primary shift in the band’s songwriting focus lies in the arrangements in particular, with the band making a conscious effort to shift between sounds from track to track, giving the album as a whole a diabolical yet defined character.
One of the most exciting aspects of the album is Witchery’s continued commitment to old school thrash metal riffs and rhythms. It is such fodder that creates the proverbial backbone of the group, with great attention being taken to meter out chugging riffs, leaving the band’s sound appearing right in the groove and completely unrushed. But although you’ll hear classic “…And Justice For All”-style Metallica rhythms in the opening instrumental, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” leans even moreso toward the the power grooving sounds of mid-nineties Metallica as well. Fans of the band expectsuch influences to crop up and during some instances, unsurprisingly, a bit of Slayer creeps in as well. Those expecting a classic Witchery sound should be pleased by “Stigmatized” (come on, the is “Am I Evil” at the end, guys) as well as tracks like “Plague Rider”, which is often distinctly more reminiscent of the group’s classic sound. A quick cover of “Legion Of Hades”, originally penned by Witchery precursors Satanic Slaughter strikes swiftly and proves to be deadly in its utter finality. “Ashes” proves gloomy and foreboding, with a hell-chant chorus from vocalist Toxine that resounds as being delightfully wicked.
Surely, the gem here is “The Ritual”, where the band’s music takes on a feeling similar to bassist Sharlee D’Angelo’s other breadwinner, Arch Enemy. Here, the group shows maturity and restraint in creating a near-perfect metal track whit a headbanging beat suitable for seperating skull from spine. Such highlights illustrate the amount of hard work and dedication that Witchery put into this record and further underline the fact that Witchery has taken their craft to entirely new levels. Join in the evil.