Oh boy. It looks like The Beast finally possessed a band and made them play some metal. In other words, Iron Maiden chanted it for a few decades and Bewitcher here got the bug. Big time. But we’ll never know, of course, if it is really The Daemon at work or only Eddie with a cosmic joke.
And already the band’s slogan that I found on one of their sites – “Heavy Metal at the speed of Satan” – got on my good side real fast. So, I admit, that play button got pushed somewhat gleefully. Because I didn’t quite know how Satanic Heavy Metal should sound like.
Now, if you expected a copy of Bruce Dickinson’s high octane wails to hit your loudspeakers on Cursed Be Thy Kingdom, come again. The vocals on that piece of alloy really grate away in a tastily blackened fashion. So, no screaming here. Instead, you’ll get the sound of real metal that wafts over the drink from Oregon in the Pacific Northwest.
First off, I relished this straight-in-yer-face retro metal thing. There’s more old-style Judas Priest and Metallica woven into this record than modern-day Rotting Christ will allow. Meaning, I am not sure if grinding rocks with your vocals and pleading with Satan will qualify them for the deepest depths of Black Metal depravity. If anything, they savvily ride the fantastical wave of satanic mysticism that many Heavy Metal bands like to cultivate.1) On the other hand, I am sure that Cursed Be Thy Kingdom gets us one of the finest metal specimens the unholy year of 2021 has to offer to date.
And the album indeed follows the pathway big Heavy Metal bands like Iron Maiden already forged a long time ago, galloping sounds included. In a way, Bewitcher deliver a rough ride over all those delights Heavy, Thrash, and Speed Metal will provide. Hetfield should have his ears ringing, these guys have such a go at it.
Yet, the start of the album left me somewhat bewildered. What is that prog-ish thing Ashe all about? The crew here dearly loves a bit of pseudo ambient and acoustic fun with some electric guitar, but this is not a good use of the limited time available on an Extreme Metal piece. For a record with a short lifespan of some 36 minutes, waste is not really an option if you want yer piece to score.
Yet, once Death Returns… and Satanic Magick Attack hits the airwaves, the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Specifically the latter got in my good graces quickly with its decidedly Heavy and Speed Metal airs. Almost creepily comfortable NWoBHM style goodness sent to your earphones from the vast realms of Cascadia.2)
But the real delivery starts once Electric Phantoms lets loose. That’s when the rasps really come to fruition and form a happy symbiosis with the riffs and – for sure – with those excellent solos that suddenly bore down at ye. Cursed Be Thy Kingdom really proves to be that bare-bone metal amalgam that we often crave and seldom get these days. Even if Bewitcher tills these good ol’ grounds a tad too much at times.
But once the heavy chugging of The Valley of the Raven rasped out of our music machine, we were sold. This one finally delivered that long-awaited mana to my tortured metal soul. That’s Satanic Heavy Metal right there. Perhaps together with The Widow’s Blade that rounds up the rear end of the record. And for sure with a truly sublime solo that blew our socks off.
Ultimately, Cursed Be Thy Kingdom provides some truly delicious, old-style metal. Something like NWoBHM 2.0 with a vitamin booster. A metal disk that doesn’t look too hard for innovation, nor should it. Instead, it artfully forges what we already (thought we) knew into a tasty piece of alloy, and the RMR deckhands here appreciate that.
But finally, Bewitcher made a record that we will certainly often return to. Molten metal, heated just right. Heavy, thrashy, reasonably speedy, and full of mysterious, dark, and hellish lore. A piece that surely awoke our appetite for more. Much more.
Ed’s note: Okay, this was all about the fantastical lore of a blackened something. Wanna get some real Black Metal? Satan in the flesh? Try some Corpus Diavolis. But if you’d rather have some more speed, here is where it dwells. Oh, and also try our review on Bewitcher’s earlier piece.