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Dead fast and shreddy! - 94%

gasmask_colostomy, December 29th, 2015

Witchery. Probably the reason that my tastes in heavy metal have developed into heavier and more expansive circles, I have to say that there's still not much that can beat these guys on a good day. I used to listen to this album and 'Restless & Dead' when I was pissed off at the world, when I wanted to get excited, or when I wanted to do whatever I was doing at twice the speed. These guys made fucking fantastic heavy metal back at their inception and, despite losing some steam this side of the millenium, they are still a force to be reckoned with, as the defiantly modern 'Witchkrieg' affirmed five years ago. (It's been a long time guys...)

I rate 'Restless & Dead' as probably one of my top 10 albums ever, so how does 'Dead, Hot and Ready' stack up alongside it? Naturally, it can't quite keep pace with it (though I'd argue there's more of a speed fetish here), but it still comes in as a thoroughly entertaining listen that can leave your arse black and blue once it's done with you. The slight drop in quality from the first full-length is the result of a shift in a slightly more aggressive direction, which makes the album fly by in barely half an hour, but shaves the edges off the amazing songwriting skills that the band previously possessed. However, we're still in the realms of icy speed/thrash that pays tribute to bands like Judas Priest, Kreator, Venom, Running Wild, Accept, and Mercyful Fate, the latter especially in the distinctive atmosphere that Witchery seem capable of producing even at fast pace, due to the chords in the riffs and the mesmerizingly graceful solos that Richard Corpse produces seemingly without effort. The great thing about Witchery is that you might well spot all of those influences even on first listen, but you won't begrudge the Swedes using any of their trademark parts, seeing as the cocktail is so potent you won't be able to concentrate on anything except banging your head and gargling the lyrics along with Toxine.

For an album that aims so directly for the heart, 'Dead, Hot and Ready' never makes you feel like you are being undersold. There are four songs here that do their damage before they even see the dawn of the 3 minute mark, while 'Resurrection' is alone in sticking its grisly head into the midday sun of a 4 minute length, so quality is certainly the objective, not quantity. (And perhaps the band just wanted a 33:33 running time to round off the whole tongue-in-cheek Satanic image.) This means that the band must use their assembled songwriting talents (we have members and ex-members of Arch Enemy, Mercyful Fate, Seance, Satanic Slaughter, and The Haunted here) to keep discipline, stripping each song down to its bones and then allowing Toxine to putrify the storming speed with his raw voice and Richard Corpse to savage or finesse the piece to perfection. The shorter songs especially are triumphant examples of economy in songwriting, flitting deftly through fairly conventional structures with all the savagery and hooky aggression of early At the Gates, though with purer, more traditional riffs.

Those riffs don't quite add up to the godly total found on 'Restless & Dead', but if anyone's counting it's got to be close. There are some absolute fucking monsters on here, such as almost everything on the shitstorming 'Call of the Coven', the instantly memorable opening of 'Full Moon', or the bulldozing groove shifts of 'Resurrection'. Picking favourites is comparable to choosing which family member you would prefer to kill first, but I would have to single out the murderous time change in 'The Guillotine' as a moment when everything comes together and I begin to dirty my pants. Some of the songs are clearly ahead of others in terms of memorability, with 'Full Moon' almost taking the crown of being Witchery's anthem away from the band-titled song from the debut (atmopshere, riffs, and fun), 'Call of the Coven' causing absolute thrashing chaos towards the end of the album (try keeping your leg still for that one), and 'Demonication' proving the best of the shorter songs, with its fiery pace and intensity. Disappointments are not in abundance, though the two songs that notably take their feet off the gas and head for more classic territory ('A Paler Shade of Death' and 'The Devil and the Damage Done') don't quite match up with viciousness or hooks, while 'On a Black Horse Thru Hell...' is a necessarily different closer, yet abandons Witchery's greatest strengths in a quest for a conclusion to the madness.

There have been a few comments that Witchery's lyrics lack the necessary seriousness to round off the experience. I would like to go on record as saying that, if you pay attention to the lyrics while you listen to this album, you're listening to the wrong band - Witchery aren't about investing in a philosophy, they are about giving you serious spinal damage as you hurl yourself around the room. Come for the viciously crunchy and hooky guitars, come for the grittily rumbling speed-fueled bass, come for the relentless foot-tapping drumming, come for the soaring explosions of lead guitar brilliance; even come for Toxine's throat-shredding barks, but if you came for the lyrics - fuck off. Because you should be left speechless by the ferocity and tightness of 'Dead, Hot and Ready'.