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Friday 22 July 2022

Reviews: Witchery, Priest, Ewigkeit, Forsaken Eternity (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Erick Williand, Richard Oliver & Matt Bladen)

Witchery - Nightside (Century Media Records) [Paul Scoble]

Hailing from Linköping in Sweden, Witchery have been an important noise in the black thrash scene since 1997. The band is made up of Patrik Jensen on Guitar, Richard Rimfält on Guitar, Chris Barkensjō on Drums, Angus Norder on Vocals and new bassist Victor Brandt. 

Witchery have made 7 albums before Nightside, starting with Restless And Dead in 1998, followed by Dead, Hot And Ready (1999), Symphony For The Devil (2001), Don’t Fear The Reaper (2006), Witchkrieg (2010), In His Majesty’s Service (2016) and I Am Legion in 2017. As I mentioned before Witchery are a black thrash band, so fast, nasty riffs, blasting drums, and horrific vocals; if you are thinking Aura Noir, Nifelheim, Bathory or more recently Hellripper then you are in the right area. 

The album sounds great, really good instrument and vocal sounds that have been perfectly mixed, but is the material as good? Yes, it’s very good, so i should elaborate. The album has 11 songs most of which are between 3 and 4 minutes long. As this is black thrash you’d expect some rippingly fast songs, and Nightside does not disappoint. Opening track Witching Hour gets things off to a fantastic start, with fast tight riffing that reminds me of early mid eighties thrash, it’s fast, simple and direct, with a cracking solo and is an adrenaline packed way so start the album.

Popecrusher is a short blast of savagery that boarders on Old School Death Metal, the song also boasts a great solo and a very melodic section with some lush guitar harmonies. Churchburner is another blast of a song that verges on Old School Death Metal, it is very rapid, features a totally deranged vocal performance and is a massively good fun. Another standout fast song is A Forest Of Burning Coffins, which has a fantastic chorus, a very pleasing melodic middle section and in a strange way it reminds me of Cannibalistic American Thrashers Ghoul. 

It’s not all about the speed on Nightside; there are a couple of mid-paced tracks that have a very nice stomp to them. Don't Burn The Witch is a really great track that stomps along at a fast walking pace, punching the air and having a great time. The song has a chorus that will worm its way into your psyche until you hum it to distraction, and a great solo. 

Witchery are no stranger to slow and heavy, and that comes out on Nightside. Left Hand March is exactly that; a March, it pounds along in a relentless and unstoppable way like some huge lurching machine. Crucifix And Candle has the same relentless quality that Left Hand March has, a perfect tempo to nod your head too. The song builds in intensity as it gets closer to its big and expansive end. 

The albums title track Nightside is another slow and unstoppable song, but this time it’s a little bit more minimal and introverted. The track builds to feeling huge, heavy and unrelenting, before a clean guitar is added for the final third of the song. It’s a great song, and a perfect ending for this album. Nightside is a fantastic album. The material is varied and takes you to many different places, whilst always feeling like a coherent whole. 

The thing that stands out about this album is the quality of the songwriting and the quality of the performances, everything just works incredibly well, it’s an album that you will keep on wanting to go back to and listen to again. I love how much energy Nightside has, and how much fun this is, it’s a blast from beginning to end and i have loved listening to it. 9/10

Priest - Body Machines (Cleopatra Records) [Erick Willand]

Body Machines is Priest’s third studio effort since 2017 and the experience clearly shows as the mystery trio deliver a smooth heavy synthwave album that is drenched in 80’s cyberpunk love. The three members are actually ex Ghost members and now go by Mercury, Salt, and Sulfur. Both Salt and Sulfur wear matching shiny black skullish crow masks and leather jackets. Mercury is the vocalist and is decked out from head and face to toe in leather and spikes like a gang biker from some lost 80’s dystopian anime. The mask even has a red light Borg eye and honestly it’s a great touch. I admit that I’m a sucker for this kind of theatrics, the costumes and stage presence all add to the overall effect. 

Album opener A Signal In The Noise is a fantastic driving slab of classic industrial pop and it’s so damn catchy I’ve caught myself humming it long after I’ve listened to it. Second track Ghost Writer starts with a sick deep synth beat that carries right into the song proper and never lets up, this and the whispered chorus make for a fun driving song, throw this on, crank it and hit the highway. This plays fantastically into track three, Hell Awaits which opens with a speech clip from one of those over-the-top televangelists that plagued TV screens in the early 90’s. These clips show up throughout the song and tie it all together nicely. 

Phantom Pain then comes pounding in with another nice solid beat and probably my favourite vocals of the album, makes me think of walking around a cyberpunk city in the rain. A solid vibe to be sure. Blacklisted is the album centerpiece with its tight, dirty beat and sinister vocal delivery, every time Mercury belts out Blacklisted you feel it. Gets a spot in my personal playlist for sure. Perfect Body Machine struts in right after and I can smell the cloud of hairspray as this is an 80’s synth pop master work, I swear I can see the leg warmers and neon spandex from here. Coming to an aerobics class near you. 

Techno Girl is a fun song despite feeling a little phoned in as it hits all the right cyberpunk spots you want it to. The video gives me huge late night, low budget Sy-Fy channel vibes in all the right ways, it’s hilarious. However track 8, Crystalline Lace changes that, coming in slower with the creepiest synth vibe yet. A bit repetitive lyrically but not an unlistenable song, saved (in my opinion) by its crisp 3 minute run time. That brings us to the last 2 tracks, Nightcrawler and Keep On Burning which are arguably the 2 dance tracks of the album. 

The second the opening beats of Nightcrawler hit your brain you know it’s a club song, I can see a Nightcrawler deep club mix EP in the future. For all that, it’s a fun song, upbeat, fast and doesn’t lose any of the album's cyberpunk vibe. Final track Keep On Burning carries that vibe forward and is the largest, most radio friendly song on the whole album. This track would have been everywhere in the late 80’s, this vocal performance would have cemented that. It’s a great up-lifting closing track to a fun, synth-pop neon love letter to 80’s cyberpunk influenced music and imagery, from the cover art to the last note. 7/10

Ewigkeit - Out Of The Woods (Death To Music Records) [Richard Oliver]

Out Of The Woods is the new E.P. from Ewigkeit the solo project of musician James Fogarty. From 2015-2021 James was a member of the Norwegian black/progressive metal band In The Woods… The fantastic 2016 album Pure was released and shortly after that the band began a disintegration from within with the founding Botteri brothers departing. James remained for the next album Cease The Day and the subsequent touring to ensure the label recouped monies that were unaccounted for but decided in late 2021 to depart the band as well. 

Several demos were completed by James for what was to be the next In The Woods… album which were taken back by him upon his departure from the band. Three of those demos have now been recorded under his Ewigkeit banner and are lyrically inspired by the chaotic behind the scenes events of the last few years. The three songs are in the progressive/doom/black metal style that encompassed the two In The Woods… albums that James was a part of.

The Wolf Returns opens the E.P. and is a somber affair with James’ baritone clean vocals dominating along with some strong riffing and a tight rhythm as well as a slightly prog leaning mid section. The highlight for me is the second song Evergreen which has a very doomy feel with some absolutely gorgeous melodies both in the vocals and the guitars. 

There is a strong melancholic atmosphere throughout though some blackened moments creep into this song and are most welcome. The third and final song on Out Of The Woods is Namestealer and is the most aggressive sounding song on the release with a strong feel of outrage especially in the harsh vocal style employed by James though there is also a strong melodic and melancholic feel to this song. 

Out Of The Woods is a great little E.P. from Ewigkeit. I am a big fan of the two In The Woods.. albums that James appeared on and the style of those albums is very much continued on this release. This is some closure for James on a tumultuous period in his career though whether we will get to hear any of the other songs he composed along with these three songs remains to be seen. 

Rather than dwelling on the past the future is now looking very exciting as James has teamed back up with the Botteri brothers for a new black metal project Nattehimmel which sounds extremely promising. 8/10

Forsaken Eternity - A Kingdom Of Ice (Rottweiler Records) [Matt Bladen]

Forsaken Eternity are an American band playing a very Scandinavian style of metal. A Kingdom Of Ice evokes the frozen tundras of Sweden, Finland, Norway etc, you can almost feel the chilling winds and desolate icy wastes. Not bad for a band from the forest dense state of Oregon! If none of that makes sense then a clearer picture is that Forsaken Eternity play symphonic blackened metal, rich in orchestral and cinematic swathes from keyboardist Brian Rush, blistering blastbeats from Jason 'The Machine's Borton, with plenty of neo-classical guitar playing from Vladimore all set against the scarred vocals from Nathan Mote. This record is a must for those that love bands such as Dimmu Borgir and Wintersun as the black metal elements balance well with the power/symphony metal ones. 

The keyboard/guitar interplay is top level with 
both men duelling throughout as the pace is kept at a gallop by the hailstorm drum patterns. Across seven of their own songs and one cover (more on that later) this band crank out a debut album that still has a few rough edges to it but you can pick out the glistening diamonds. Virtuoso playing is paramount from the opening blasts of Skywards and A Dark Divinity, both of which fully explore the extreme metal side. It's Shadow Fortress and Endless Light that bring the power metal side. 

Now I mentioned the neo-classical guitar style too and this is shown on the insteumental Sonatata Concertata In Cm a track that by rights should lead into the closing cover which is Rising Force from the Yngwie Malmsteen album of the same name, though with the harsh vocals rather than Jeff Scott Soto's original croon. See what I mean about having a European influence? It's ballsy for a band to cover Malmsteen, even more so if they are from the more extreme side of the metal sphere, however Forsaken Identity do the cover justice as well as bringing their own virtuoso style to this debut album. Exciting things lay ahead. 8/10

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