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Wait...this is 2010?! - 83%

Jophelerx, May 9th, 2013

Being a metalhead in the 80s certainly would have been something - new genres evolving, groundbreaking, milestone albums released, and hell - having metal actually be popular would have been cool. Seeing Manilla Road or Omen live when they were at their prime would have been something indeed. But ultimately, being a metalhead in 2013 is almost as good in a lot of ways, if not better. All of the old albums are readily available - even obscure demos that one never might have been able to hear in the 80s have surfaced via the advent of the internet, and a lot of old bands are reforming and releasing new albums, not to mention new bands coming out with an 80s style, as is the case with Witchgrave. Metal's doing better than it has been since the late 80s - while it's hardly in the top 40, it's still come along way since the abysmal mid-to-late 90s. Witchgrave are a constant reminder of the positives of being a metalhead in the 21st century, despite playing for less than 15 minutes on their EP.

Witchgrave play a style that's upbeat yet occult and malevolent; they're very much in the vein of early 80s Venom, just a bit less sloppy and perhaps a tad more melodic. The mere fact that they're able to conjure up top-notch NWOBHM riffs in 2010 is pretty fantastic, though, and that's not the only thing that sounds like it's straight out of the 80s. The production doesn't sound programmed or slick at all like a lot of modern albums - but neither is it too rough or drowned out. Instead, everything is heavy and in your face - Witchgrave manage to utilize modern technology to actually sound like a better version of an 80s album, something that's far too rare nowadays. Vocalist (also guitarist and bassist!) Joakim Norberg sounds like a slightly lower-pitched Cronos, and that's absolutely a compliment on Norberg's ability. The fact that the album is played by a two-piece in and of itself is pretty incredible - not a lot of traditional metal bands are able to pull that off.

The songwriting here is absolutely fantastic - not one song is less than excellent, the riffs just keep on coming and the infectious catchiness never fades. You'll probably find yourself wanting to sing along (or rather, grunt along) with Norberg on some of the choruses, particularly "Satanic Slut" and "Beg For Mercy". While Venom is the first band that comes to mind, the songs here are really more traditional NWOBHM than Venom's speed metallish stuff, just with harsher than average vocals. Still, it's definitely on the darker side of NWOBHM - more Cloven Hoof than Angel Witch, so to speak. It's a pretty unique blend and I'm more than interested to hear what Witchgrave will do with their still very young career in the upcoming years.

Best 80's Metal Album of 2010 - 90%

BobbyPeru, June 14th, 2011

Some records can be marked down as retro within the first minute. Others, the better ones, will sound and look so authentic, they will have you scanning the liner notes in search for the original recording info. They will pass as reissues even when they are not. That’s what happens with Witchgrave’s first EP The Devil’s Night. It sounds and feels so 80’s and it does so in such a pure disinterested way, I can't help but give it a nod of approval.

Lovers of the old, fans of the output of Neat, Bronze and New Renaissance, let me warn you: you will feel it’s exuberant cadence, you will get sucked in by its rusty tubular recording. If you know your 80’s metal, this will bring back memories of the old. I resist to believe that it was recorded by two young Swedes sometime in 2010. Witchgrave, I am convinced, just got off the time machine.

The Devil’s Night sounds like a young Tom G Warrior’s interpretation of 80’s heavy metal. Like his stab at NWOBHM. Seriously, had the Swiss been more of an upbeat youth and had he possessed a hand that riffed a little faster, Hellhammer would have sounded exactly like Witchgrave.

Witchgrave is a duo from Växjo, Sweden. Vocalist, bassist and guitarist Joakim Norberg sings with the same gnarly creepiness of Warrior. He sounds like the typical disenfranchised youth that just realized he wants to front a heavy metal band. His work in the strings department is more fluid and articulate. In the title track, in pure NWOBHM fashion, he solos at the start and at the end he does so with dual personality, as if him alone could replicate the variants usually exposed by the twin guitar attack. He succeeds.

Of the four song included in this EP, all are A listers. The duo has definitely invested the time in crafting a sound that is pure. Matching that to the hissy recording quality makes them sound like a group that just came out of a mining town in Germany. Yes, Witchgrave sounds that good.

Originally Written for www.deafsparrow.com