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Aaaargh, I have such a hard time deciding about this EP. On the one hand, it's one of those EPs that puts "extra" material alongside new songs and kind of dilutes the meaning of both of them due to the comparison, but on the other hand, it's more music from Witchery, who were fucking unstoppable in the last century, though altered their sound with 2001's respectable 'Symphony for the Devil'. As such, 'Witchburner' can't quite be judged as a pure Witchery release, since the intention is clearly different from the full-lengths, though the first thing that helps is if we forget who wrote the 4 covers on here and concentrate on what's going on musically.
When one looks at names like Black Sabbath and W.A.S.P., one gets extremely sceptical about the suitablility of such songs for Witchery's evil speed metal style, yet it would actually be hard to tell that those bands were involved were it not for the instantly recognizable riffs and familiar vocal hooks, which Toxine does his best to chew up and vomit out in as putrid a manner as possible. Let's take 'I Wanna Be Somebody' as our example, since it shouldn't really work for the Swedes. The first thing to change is the grit and filth that Witchery have loaded onto the song, since 'Witchburner' actually has the band's dirtiest sound of all their releases, grinding and scything with some extra sharpness and crunch compared to the albums flanking it. Then, the pace and urgency that these guys apply make the simple riffs flash by with venom, while even the stadium chanting breakdown near the end gets its own creepy ambience to decommercialize it and turn it into something that actually sounds like a Witchery song. Of the covers, it would be easy to say that they are all well-written, especially bearing in mind where they come from, but the changes to the classic songs are actually interesting and the vital performances make them worthwhile, if not necessarily essential. 'Neon Knights' is a little too Sabbathy for its own good, but the viciousness of the others, particularly 'Riding on the Wind', is commendable.
There are 3 new songs here as well, which stylistically veer away from the catchier side of Witchery's sound and stick a nose into extreme territory at times. There is something colder and more desperate about the way 'The Howling' changes its pace and the eerie sample cuts in that does not sound like the exhilarating fun of the debut album, nor the riff worship of the second, but something altogether more deadly. There are moments in these full-blooded songs that you will feel afraid or uncomfortable, as well as dementedly elated, just as you would with the savagery of Kreator or Slayer, though there is a focus on hooks as well as pure speed. 'The Executioner' feels more conventional than the others, with a definite thrash character and fewer distinctive parts, but 'Witchburner' itself has that genius moment of the "screaming" guitar lead following the screams of a burning woman, as well as plenty of riffs to get to work on your neck.
Overall, 'Witchburner' is a decent EP that plays with a rawer production and more visceral style than Witchery's other releases, though can't quite match its bigger brothers for great songwriting and memorability. All of the instrumentalists sound great and Toxine's performance is perhaps the most impressive he has ever been, but this still feels like just a brief taste of something that wouldn't have been a wholly satisfying main meal.
Witchery's debut Restless & Dead was both a wake up call and a blast of fresh grave soil, taking the reins of the black/thrash sub-genre directly away from the current lordly practitioners like Bewitched and Swordmaster and finding greater success abroad. It was clear that there would be some legs to this project, which in one album blew away the combined output of some of the members' previous bands (Seance and Satanic Slaughter), so the Swedes issued this EP in order to sate the thirst for their sophomore album (which was due out in October 1999).
What better way to do this than gather some safe covers that most metal fans can relate to, with a few spare originals that probably weren't going to be good enough for the next full-length? Thus, the Witchburner EP was born. But what I didn't expect is that the covers were going to be quite this good...and really, they make this release worthwhile even more than the band's own new material, though that does not disappoint either. The cover choices are all rather obvious: Accept, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, W.A.S.P., card carrying deities of the metal pantheon all, but Witchery's carefree, give a fuck attitude of blazing guitars, and the strangled kitten cornered in Toxiene's esophagus all lend themselves very well to their interpretation. Of the four, "Fast as a Shark" and "Riding on the Wind" are the strongest, with "Neon Knights" coming in a close third. They're all played pretty straight, with the obvious scaling in production values at the dawn of a new century, and the predicted difference in vocal styles, and yet Toxiene does attempt to put a little more 'spice' into his haughty snarls and barks, easily rivaling his performance on the debut. The cover of W.A.S.P.'s "I Wanna Be Somebody" is reasonably fun too, I simply just don't care for the original as much as these others.
As it turns out, the band's own new material would also be greater than expected. In particular, I really enjoyed "The Executioner", with a thrusting rhythm that almost rivals "The Reaper", and some killer hooks cycling through post-verse, though the chorus in this song is nowhere near as catchy. "The Howling" keeps up the pace, Sharlee D'Angelo's bass striding along below a meaty Corpse/Jensen thrashing, and a fine bridge rhythm. The final track on the EP, "Witchburner" itself is a more brazen, choking, raw composition, but force enough remains within the guitars and Mique's drumming to behead any vile Wiccan who preys upon the hapless, and the riff breakdown at about 2:35 is just fucking awesome...
Witchburner is 25 minutes of the same reckless attitude and roots metal aesthetic that pervaded their flawless debut album, in a tight and spry package that should have even the most hardened headbanger romping about the room breaking glass bottles and injuring himself. I'd like to point out that though Witchery were (and presumably still are) a 'retro' band in that they mesh old school thrash and speed metal ethics with a black, snarling throat, the band is largely successful because they play it STRAIGHT. As cliche as some of their imagery and lyrics are, they do not fuck around by reciting the 'thrash' mantra in the lyrics every other passage, a lesson I wish half of today's pre-pubescent Exodus/Tankard worshipers could have sat in on. I know you want to be funny. Play it straight, thrice damn you! It's always going to end up funnier that way (and timeless). Witchery has their finger on the trigger here, and this is a tasteful series of bullets that will impress anyone who enjoys Restless & Dead or the following Dead, Hot & Ready.
Witchery's second album is in fact an EP. Although their "full-length" albums are not much lengthier. Witchburner consists of four cover songs and three new Witchery songs.
The EP kicks off with a very good cover of Accept's "Fast As A Shark" classic and speeded up a little at the frontier of speed/thrash metal. Next comes a cover of W.A.S.P.'s "I Wanna Be Somebody", another 80's classic, and Witchery's version is almost as enjoyable as the original song, the vocals don't exactly fit the song, but you get over it with time. The third cover, Judas Priest's "Riding On The Wind", simply another kick-ass cover. The last cover song is Black Sabbath's "Neon Knights". Here the vocals are again something to get over, but, hell, what can I say, this cover is as good at the others on the album!
Now for the new songs. "The Howling" is the first one, and you can instantly recognize that this is original material from Witchery. Guitars, bass and drums that make them recognizable among hundreds of others. The song is very fast-paced, pretty trashy actually. "The Executioner" is next, another trashy one, actually a bit faster than "The Howling". The title track, "Witchburner" closes the deal, starting on some raw heavy guitar work. The song quickly builds up some speed to become almost as thrashy as the preceding songs.
This EP is really a joy to listen to. The only thing I regret is that they did not include the lyrics for the last three songs.
Outstanding Songs: "Fast As A Shark", "Neon Knights", "The Executioner", "Witchburner".
Being a hardened fan of thrash metal, I was really looking forward to giving this EP a hear especially after hearing a lot of good reviews about it back in 1999. Here’s what I did upon listening to it for the first time. I gave it 3 spins again back to back. This stuff is incredible and has brought about a whole new side to thrash metal. With raspy vocals courtesy of Mr. Toxine, one can be rest assured of the nastiness the vocal lines carry. The musicianship on the other hand is tight and the guys sure know their stuff pretty well. The production too is impeccable and of numero uno quality keeping the old school charm intact as well.
This EP comprises of 4 cover tracks and 3 originals. The first one is a rendition of Accept’s world famous “Fast As A Shark” and Toxine delivers with absolute anger on this one. The intro scream is spine chilling, sounding like a tortured soul in a dungeon. The second track happens to be the biggest surprise in here. W.A.S.P’s “I Wanna Be Somebody” has not been covered by too many bands in the past, but Witchery has paid a worthy tribute to this eighties banger, ironically one of my all time favourite heavy metal tracks too. The next two are covers of the legends, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, both done fairly well.
Now come the originals and all three of them are a must hear for any thrash metal lover. “The Howling” has that eerie wolf howl in the middle giving the track an originality of its own, while “The Executioner” too has a great thrash riff that smells entirely of eighties worship. The final title track is the real throat grabber here. The riffs are furiously hard accentuated by the insane vocals and pounding drumming, which makes it almost impossible for anyone not to headbang to this one. Try not to listen to this track at full volume, you’re bound to go deaf. Its that freaking loud.
Not all black thrash albums turn out to be that good. Either they’re too lousy or not too original. This one falls in neither category and hence deserves to draw more attention from metal fanatics all across the planet. Recommended for fans of old school thrash metal and also those who like something similar to “At The Heart Of Winter” era Immortal. Satisfaction guaranteed.
A few months back I got "Don't Fear the Reaper" enjoyed that album alot. Then I obtained "Dead Hot and Ready" and "Witchburner".
Witchery for the most part plays a style of blackened thrash metal, but it's fun blackened thrash metal. Witchburner is seven songs strong, with the first four songs being covers, and the other three being originals.
I haven't heard the original versions of these songs, so I can't say if Witchery completely fucked them up or not. I do know however that I do enjoy these songs. "Fast as Shark" begins with a Disney-ish style 1940s tune, before a record scratches, and then you hear screaming. It sounds like Snow White was singing, but then Witchery clad in obsidian metal armor and riding black horses rode in and slaughtered the Disney sing along, and then started to thrash out.
The next song wortj mentioning is "I Wanna Be Somebody" is all around catchy as hell. Great thrash instrumentation, that while repeative manages to repeat riffs that are actually good. This is a fun song for the most part. The two remaining covers retain the feel good blackened thrash vibe that only WItchery and a few other bands could perform.
Then we get to the final three songs that are originals. What we have is even more blackened thrash metal. The song "The Executioner" contains a hearty galloping riff in it, that keeps this song with the ranks of "Fast as a Shark" and "I Wanna Be Somebody". "Witchburner" is the slowest song of the album, but alas that's the equavalent of saying that milk chocolate is the least chocolate of all the chocolates. In other words it doesn't mean much.
This EP in a nutshell is the style of blackened thrash metal with a certain punk aesthetic. It isn't overtly dark, and actually quite fun to listen to. Sadly the repeatetion does bore me, and so I give this album a score of