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80's death-thrash via late 90's Sweden - 85%

Historian, March 18th, 2007

One of Niklas "Terror" Rudolfsson's many projects, Deathwitch took the style and
approach of many of the 80's most extreme thrash bands, such as Sodom, Kreator, Celtic Frost, Slayer, Sarcofago and Sepultura, all of whom released early albums which are often retrospectively regarded as proto-death metal (eg Sepultura, Slayer, Celtic Frost) or black metal recordings (Sodom, Kreator, Celtic Frost again), injected with death metal heaviness and intensity. Deathwitch thus played largely rough-and-ready high-speed death-thrash, but with 90's extremities as regards to speed and aggression. At this mid-point in the band's existence, along with the compilation/follow-up "Monumental Mutilations", the band can be said to have reached their own high-water mark in terms of quality, due largely to both attention to detail and being unafraid to show some range and variation in the song-writing department.


As to the album itself: it opens with a brief atmospheric keyboard intro, used
several times on the album, some more effectively than others (for example, the
ominous build-up of the keyboard piece "Dawn of Ymodos Millenium" would have been much better placed far earlier in the album, but that's only minor complaint). The title track begins the album proper, with raging thrash-riffs and very fast thrash
drumming, bordering on blast-beats (which do actually appear on the next album),
and death-metal bridge-muting from time to time. This is the blueprint for the
vast majority of the album which follows (with some minor variation in terms of
arrangement and speed), including highlights such as "Necromancer's Rites", "Dark Gift", "Revel In Sin", "Monster Perversion" (perhaps intended as 'Monstrous
Perversion'?) and my personal favourite, "Deathmachine", a lo-fi sample of which
introduced me to the band nearly 10 years(!) ago.


Although hardly re-inventing thrash here, the music retains some crucial qualities
during the album's finest moments - memorable choruses catchy energetic riffing,
and most importantly - a sense of danger/threat. This last quality is a precious
commodity which relatively few bands (ie Bestial Mockery, mid-period Defleshed,
Disgorge (Mex), Hacavitz and Azarath) possess in the modern age of overly-processed digital recording. At its best moments, this record sounds
incredibly aggressive, just as Slayer did 20 years ago, with both guitars and
drums blazing away, but raw enough to avoid ever sounding like mere exercises in
speed and synchronicity.


This formula is interrupted at two points (tracks 9 and 13) in the album for the
two long songs, both of which transcend the 5 minute mark. For both tracks, the
pace slows considerably for their majority, relying instead in atmosphere, and in
fact at times sounding like they could have ended up on one of the albums of
another of his contemporary bands, Runemagick (which at the time featured more
Death-metal elements). As it happens these are my two least favourite tracks, but
will no doubt please others looking for variety. On the latter point, this album
contains several tracks which break the miminalist standards of its influences, in
that they possess more than 3 riffs and there also occasional tempo shifts. A few
of the songs even contain solos, generally in the noise/squeal style of early
Slayer and Sepultura, although the best of these appears on "Revel In Sin" in a
somewhat harmonic form.


Terror's vocals are also one of the album's strong points in that he shifts with
ease from a mid-80's Sarcofago/Sepultura semi-growl (eg, "Dark Gift") to a Tom G Warrior-esque groan/scowl (eg "Deathmachine", which in general sounds the most 80's of the lot), and occasionally even takes on a more blackened tone (eg "Monster Perversion"). Fittingly, many of the songs are interspersed with actual death growls in accordance with early 90's death metal, with some used either in the choruses, or at the climax. His enunciations during the simple choruses generally lift even the weaker songs (eg "Witches Morbid Lust"), and the variation ensures that you pay attention to what he is saying, although the lyrics concern his usual content - blasphemy, the occult, violence and an obssession with sodomy (see "Dawn of the Ymodos Millenium", and various song-titles on any of the later albums), all of which essentially remain true to the violently anti-social blueprint set down by the band's forebears.


Musically, later albums tended to simplify still further, perhaps as Terror
attempted to further emulate the sound and stylings of his 80's idols, and
consequently lack the variety and depth shown on this and the follow-up release,
most of which was comprised of 'left-over' material from the sessions for this
album. However, the sheer drive and aggression on display on this tribute to the
great extreme bands of the 80's can not fail to get the adrenaline pumping and
should be sought out. While not perfect and certainly not original in thought, the
execution is there. Perhaps, one can say that while Deathwitch were never a top
class act, what they did, they did very well indeed.