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21st Century Witchfinder - 85%

gasmask_colostomy, September 19th, 2014

Witchery have been one of my favourite bands for many years now, and when they were resurrected after a 4 year absence and brought out 'Witchkrieg' I was very excited. My excitement was not initially met with the quality of album that I anticipated, but on further reflection, I must say it is a good Witchery album and about the best I expected them to make.

For those familiar with Witchery, this is not like their early output: the fun, thrashy, trebly sound has mostly gone from the band and we are left with a much more modern sound that covers metal bases more broadly, like on 2006's 'Don't Fear the Reaper', though the songwriting is much stronger. There is a slightly more pronounced black metal tendency to some of the riffs, especially 'Wearer of Wolf's Skin' and the vicious tremolo riff in the title track really caught me off guard. This has added brutality to the band's sound but has traded it for some of the momentum and catchiness that made them stand out early in their life.

The vocalist is new (though as I write this he is already replaced) and sung with Marduk for a long time, which might explain that slight extremity in the songwriting. He also has a more powerful voice than Toxine and controls the songs much more, which gives a firmer presence to make up for the minor decline in riff brilliance. However, the lyrics haven't got any more serious and there is an overuse of effect on his voice, particularly noticeable as several songs end with a kind of weird gargle from his last words. I guess the result of this change is that Witchery have ended up a little less Mercyful Fate and a little more 2000's Exodus, which is notable since the Exodus guitarists guest on a song here.

For these minor flaws, I wouldn't say that any of the songs are especially weak, though the more brooding 'The God Who Fell from Earth' has less impact (as expected with Witchery's slower songs) and the rather simple and derivative 'The Reaver' doesn't pull it's weight. Highlights include the unexpected brutality of the two openers, the bouncy chorus of 'From Dead to Worse', which is easily the catchiest thing on here, and the great leads and sheer power of 'The Devil Rides Out'. The guest solos are a neat idea and the guests are of the highest calibre, but I personally prefer Richard Corpse's solos because they give the songs character rather than just shredding.

Overall, a very good album, and a definite improvement on the lacklustre 'Don't Fear the Reaper', if still a little short of Witchery's late '90s heyday.

Old times! - 90%

Thor76, August 18th, 2011

Sitting here outside a pub with a pint in my hand, I have a fantastic collection of songs screaming into my ears and I'm starting to feel like I'm listening to Reign in Blood for the first time again. Now, I'm not comparing this to that classic slab of thrash, but a feeling has indeed been conjured that is in keeping with that moment years ago that started with Angel of Death as an opener. Indeed, this would be a worthy counterpart to an evening of listening to some old thrash bands! There would of course have to be an allowance made for the vocals, but all metallers should be open minded!

I have been a fan of this band since their inception, and although their career has meandered from the formula that I always found endearing, they have rarely left my annual playlist. This latest album for me has been quite a revelation; although it still suffers from a couple of weak points of needless 'groovy' sections, it is still an entertaining assault on the ears! The tone of the guitars is reminiscent of old Slayer with a hint of Megadeth - perhaps no accident then the choice axe legends to share the burden of killer solos.

Although, as stated above, there is a little bit of dross in quality of the slower songs due to a grove feel to the riffs, this album did bring to mind the days when all you needed was a fast- paced riff and aggression to get by in the world of metal and get heads nodding. Although the content is not especially original, there is a quality of execution that belies the simplicity of the formula applied to the song writing. All the instruments pull together in almost a homage to days long gone in the world of thrash/speed that kept you rocking until you dropped. The music here is as previously stated in the vein of the thrash/speed era that inspired it's creation. In fact, some of the material contained here reminds me of Testament in structure if not in tone. The guitars are slightly too sharp to allow a direct comparison, but the relentless aggression and 'head-nodding' moments are too good to resist breaking out Killing Is My Business or Low as a follow up. As mentioned before, the vocals require some allowance. I have always been a fan of Marduk and actually prefer the work of Legion here due to the change of pace and tone of the instruments, however I feel that something is missed without Toxine at the helm. Although I enjoy the vocal performance of Legion, he cannot quite capture the inherent 'lewdness' that his predecessor managed in expressing the lyrics of the bands previous efforts. This to me is a missed opportunity as I have always enjoyed this element of the bands sound.

For me, this has been a reawakening of old passions that have been kinda missing since listening in school to Altar of Sacrifice back in the 80's and feeling rebellious!

I would recommend this to anyone who started their listening career in metal with thrash and worked up to black metal, as this band and especially this album seem to span this bridge almost perfectly.

Ben Wrangle Returns!!!!! - 76%

Gloon, June 20th, 2011

After a highly prolific start to their career in delivering 3 albums and 1 EP between 1998-2001, it took until 2006 for Witchery to resurface with a new album and new label following the collapse of Necropolis Records. 2010 now sees the release of Witchkrieg, the bands 5th full-length and first in 4 years, and its once again time to raise the big ‘W’ to the sky and thrash out to another slab of Witchery madness.

Witchkrieg marks the debut of new vocalist Legion (ex-Marduk) who has big shoes to fill in that Toxine’s persona helped give character to the band and its image. His distinct and varied vocals were also a defining part of Witchery’s sound. Legion however manages to pull it off, adding his own significant presence to the mix as well as a bucketload of grunt and power which along with the big thick production helps elevate the songs into heavier more brutal territory.

The album kicks off with a bang as the title track is as vicious and nasty as anything they’ve done throughout their career. We’re then treated to the trilogy of better songs to be found with ‘Conqueror’s Return’ being the obvious highlight (and sure to be live favourite). What follows unfortunately fails to reach the same heights with ‘The Reaver’ and ‘From Dead to Worse’ being typical Witchery stompers and the rest sort of following a well worn if not still appealing sense of familiarity and approach.

As an extra kicker we also have Kerry King, Hank Shermann, Gary Holt, Andy LaRocque and Jim Durkin all adding solos across the album to help add some nostalgia and almost some implied approval of Witchery’s standing. While some of these help flesh out an already blitzing song, others suffer from a bit of ‘cut, paste and insert’ feeling which can be a little distracting. Jensen also finally gets to cut lose again after some less than inspiring releases recently from The Haunted and showcases why he is often considered a modern axe maestro taking thrash into the new millennium and beyond.

Overall its basically good old Witchery but on steroids with a big full production and armed with some heavier artillery in Legion and the guest shredders. Personally I’ve always felt Witchery underachieved a little with their caliber of talent and were a bit below their self promoted hype. However potential and image aside I’ve always enjoyed what Witchery has to offer and this release is no different. If you’re already a fan you’ll know what to expect and be left more than satisfied and if you’re new to Ben Wrangle and the boys then watch out and prepare to be Witchkrieged!!!!!!!!

Perhaps their best yet?! - 90%

darkreif, October 9th, 2010

Although it has only been 4 years since the release of their last album, Don’t Fear the Reaper, it has felt insanely longer as the extreme thrash super group Witchery had its members saunter off and do their other projects. When they finally announced this latest album as already recorded with guest performers and a new vocalist (WHAT!?!), there were more than a few excited to finally get a new record from these guys. Then to top it off, it matches the intensity of their previous records and might be even better then their back catalog. Witchery is indeed back.

Witchkrieg takes some of the best from all the slight differences from previous albums and rolls it into a rollicking fun and hard hitting thrashing good time. With punching riff-oriented guitars that dabble in melancholic melodies occasionally, a wicked bass foundation, and sick drumming it’s hard not to love what Witchery have always brought to the table with their talented members.

The band does dabble into various little nuances that they have in the past on Witchkrieg too. There is a bit of groove sound like on the last few albums on tracks like Dead to Worse and One Foot in the Grave and there is a bit of that mid tempo and melodic driven atmosphere sound on The God Who Fell from Earth. The band does mostly stick to their modern thrash sound for the majority of the album though and that will have most fans eager to hear more.

The black metal influence does seem heavier on this album due to the new vocalist Legion (who fronted Marduk for a handful of years in the late 90s and early 00s) and his hissing black influenced vocal attack. This does fit right in with the style though since previous vocalist Toxine liked to dabble into that genre to begin with. Legion does his best though and fits in nicely with the band and makes a great performance for the record.

It also must be mentioned all the great guest performances on this record. All of them are in the solo department on various songs and these little tidbits of metal history that are inducted into the music of the album make this even more memorable. All of them are mentioned on the track listing above and I’m sure when you see the list you’ll also be more than excited.

Witchkrieg might be one of the best offerings that Witchery has yet to offer. Despite the chance it takes with all the little details that give the album quite a bit of variety, the energy and the sheer thrash will power of the album make it roll with every twist and turn. It’s a great addition to a solid catalog and a great start for a new era for the band.

Originally written for http://www.metal-observer.com

One for the headbangers - 92%

sevenlee7, October 8th, 2010

For me Witchery was always that band that could. It's a band I knew could really pull off some amazing tracks but never really seemed to do it. They had a few flashes of promise in the past for me, particularly in the last two albums "Symphony For The Devil" and "Don't Fear The Reaper" but I think it's here with "Witchkrieg" where they have finally started to assert themselves.

It starts off with the killer title opening track "Witchkrieg" which pounds away with simple but effective riffage until the very Slayer-esque solo (Unsurprising since it's Kerry King who supplys it) The vocals are brutal as always with Witchery.

The thing for me that makes this album stand out over it's predecessors, is how much sharper and tighter the songs sound and how much more polished the songwriting is. In the past they seemed to get a little lost with some ideas and the impact of the track suffered. But on this one, every song feels like it has a distinct purpose and direction. Sure, some are catchy, or at least as catchy as Witchery gets, but it never loses its focus with flash or pretentiousness.

You can expect certain things from a Witchery album and one of those is no stuffing around with intricacies or long complex interludes. Every track will punch you in the face from start to finish and if that's what you're expecting, that's what you'll love about it.

There are a few stand out tracks for me such as "Witchkrieg", "From Dead To Worse" and with its simple but killer intro "Witch Hunter" is not to be missed.

All round it's an awesome album that really shows Witchery's maturing as a group and hopefully they can continue that progression to become a major player on the metal scene.

"WIIIIITCH KRIIIEEEG!" - 80%

doomknocker, June 25th, 2010

WITCHERY, at one time or another, seemed like a pretty big thing back when the 90s were the thing of the day, one of the better “super groups” that initiated that unholy conglomerate of a wicked-ass black metal atmosphere and old school, riff-based thrashin’ that was quite uncommon to toy with. Nowadays any headstrong fool with a guitar and two I.V.s of SLAYER and DISSECTION can unearth such a fiery maelstrom with that frostbitten twinge, but for even the most horns-raisin’ of metal guys it could be rather tricky to remember any other blackened thrash groups in the 90s outside of SACRAMENTUM, USURPER, and all those JOE THIRD-TIER clones. However, I’d not been able to take a big gulp of WITCHERY’s wares (always hard to do so when your local good music shop is many, many miles away), though I’d been intrigued enough to be able to see how they’d manage to survive into the 21st century. Plus, ol’ boy Legion is now fronting these goons, which helped the manner all the more (I’d wondered what his post-MARDUK day job would end up being…imagine my surprise!)

And with that said, “Witchkrieg” is now upon us…so how good is it? How good could it possibly be?

Within just the first minute of the opening track, this listener knows that this new album will be a complete and utter riff-fest, more than good enough to quench the hunger for heaviness and all things metallic. Easily one of the best Century Media releases in recent times, WITCHERY beat any partaking by-passers out of their baby-doll TRIVIUM/KILLSWITCH ENGAGE/what-have-you-core shirts and thrust them head-first into what metal should REALLY sound like. Energetic, melodic, brutal, and utterly evil, “Witchkrieg” bludgeons with an utmost supremacy that proudly displays that “Made in Sweden” seal, where monstrous twin/lead guitars, skull-bashing riffs, punishing drums and some of Legion’s best vocal work to date (which is thankfully as energetic as the music itself, as his latter-era MARDUK vocality seemed weak and almost tired-sounding) come forth like an explosion of (im)pure sound, taking that old black/thrash sound with sprinkles of a one-time modern death metal approach that is simultaneously familiar and fresh-sounding. This should be the release to put this group at the forefront of the Swedish metal world, well past the shred-based egotism of ARCH ENEMY, the hardcore tendencies of THE HAUNTED, and the emo-esque meanderings of SONIC SYNDICATE. There’s a lot to enjoy within this 34 minute fist to the nuts which should prove important to both those old-timey fans and those just getting into the WITCHERY way of life, as the likes of “Wearer of Wolf's Skin”, “From Dead to Worse”, and “One Foot in the Grave” can attest. In a time where REAL metal is becoming endangered by an over-saturation of both talentless third/fourth-tier newer bands and pathetic examples of “mainstream” heavy music, it’s about time a group from decades passed gave us their all in order to remind us dinosaurs that all is not lost. And for that, I salute thee.

In the end WITCHERY unleash another fine example of metal mastery that sticks to your now-bloodied ribs like the Reaper’s blade itself. If you want to have riffs shoved down your throat, a steel-toed New Rock boot kick your ass, and the raised horns poking your very eyes out, I’ve yet to find you a better album to have it done so.

Witchkrieg averted by bucket of water to the face! - 63%

autothrall, June 24th, 2010

Considering the relative dip in quality the Swedish black/thrashers took with their third and fourth records Symphony for the Devil and Don't Fear the Reaper, it was perhaps a very good idea that the band go on a coma, from which possibly never to return. Well, the seasons have shifted and now Witchery has, in fact, begun to fan the flames of their staked exile and deemed the time ripe to once again conjure up some mayhem. In this crusade, they are joined by a new, horned countenance on the microphone, Erik "Legion" Hagstedt, who once worked with Swedish cults Ophthalamia and Marduk. He replaces the recently departed Toxiene, and the difference is like night and day, but not without a bit of intervening afternoon gloom.

I always found Toxiene a little understated in his rasping approach, in particular on the band's earlier albums, but regardless it worked very well within the band's overall milieu. Legion is sort of the opposite, his vocals seem deeper and more full-bodied, roaring over the Jensen riff attack like a fleet of winged monkeys en route to fucking up the lives of a pig-tailed girl and her mixed company. At times, I almost felt the vocals were overbearing and felt like they were in another dimension to the music, but in other places, it really works wonders, creating this vast nightmare feel to what would otherwise be some rather stock thrash/death/black metal.

Sadly, the riffs are where Witchkrieg once again fails to muster up the forceful energy of the past efforts like the miraculous Restless & Dead. They're biting and forward, and comparable to the work of the past two records, which were less than spectacular. It's pretty telling when a slower, groove monolith like "The God Who Fell From Earth" can steal the attention away from the more crazed material like "The Reaver" or "Witchkrieg" itself. I also felt like a few of the tracks veered too boldly into a black/death sound, like "Wearer of Wolf's Skin", which is just not something I really expect or desire from Witchery.

There ARE exception, however, in which the songs summon adequate riffs to turn the head towards its downright, banging position, like "Conqueror's Return", which successfully segues from a ballistic thrashing force to a big groove sequence. "From Dead to Worse" and "Hellhound" were mildly entertaining, though a few of the blockier, bruising cuts in the depths like "Devil Rides Out" and "One Foot in the Grave" were less than compulsory. The vocals on "Witch Hunter" range from annoying to wretchedly atmospheric, but the limited edition bonus track "Hung, Drawn and Quartered" is arguably the best song on the entire album...I wonder why it wasn't included as one of the core tracks. Perhaps it was just recorded too late.

As a little gimmick and a tribute to some of their favorite bands, Witchery have thrown together a roster of guest soloists here including Jim Durkin (Dark Angel), Kerry King, Hank Shermann, Gary Holt & Lee Altus (Exodus), and the almighty Andy LaRocque, and it's pretty interesting to hear how they all apply their distinct styles to the leads, but they don't exactly shine through as more than fluid within the Swedes' imposed frameworks. I'd be lying though if I said i didn't think it was a good idea...

Ultimately, Witchkrieg is a superior effort to the previous, lifeless Don't Fear the Reaper, where Witchery's good intentions to invoke a memorable hybrid of thrash and black metal went to die in a fire. Yet it doesn't even hinge on the success of their first two albums at slutty graveyard thrusting riffs and faux diabolic diatribes, and winds up just a smidgeon shy of 2001's Symphony for the Devil in overall quality. You can have a good time with a number of these tracks, but in the end they all feel rather disposable. The statement made by one of the band member's that this was a better album than anything they'd previously released is quite far from the truth (happens more often than you'd think). As for Legion, he is not necessarily better or worse than his predecessor. It's good to see him in action again, and he's a pretty reliable choice, but might take a little more time to gestate within the band's core sound.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com