Bewitcher – Under The Witching Cross (2019) – Review

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One thing is certain. The folks over at Bewitcher like to keep their metal wares short, crisp, and razor-sharp. Already their 2021 piece Cursed be Thy Kingdom soothed our cold metal hearts with that sort of speedy fare that seems to spew forth straight from the times NWoBHM was a thing. And it came at a relatively short runtime that won’t damage yer attention span.

Now, with the 2019 piece Under The Witching Cross1), the RMR deck crew discovered an even faster, almost bare-bone version of their Brand of Heavy Metal. And this one – wait for it – comes at a truly svelte airtime of some 33 minutes (or so). And this makes for a truly rough and fast ride through their satan-infested soundscape.

Speaking of which.

As was the custom on its successor, they already rode that huge wave of surface Satanism on Witching Cross and the club-ready brandishing of symbols and dark daemonic tales from the past. Some bitching about the rise of the beast in the old Roman Empire, for instance. As in Rome Is On Fire that harkens back to Nero, the bane of the early Christians.

Of course, the use of stories from bad actors from the bible – or a grimoire if you will – is nothing new. Already Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and many others used that time-worn pathway. It exudes that deliciously musky smell of wickedness. Enough to frighten old grandmas as they blaspheme away, or the die-hard parishioners out there in the boonies of the heartland.

That is why it always makes me laugh when some opine that Bewitcher would qualify as Black Metal. However, Under The Witching Cross truly pushes a rough brand of steely metal. Yet, it is this mix of Kill ‘Em All style Metallica, Venom, and – yet again – old Judas Priest that really delivers that steel by the long ton. A tastily speedy jambalaya of Thrash, Heavy, and Speed Metal. Even if the definition of Speed Metal is far from clear.

The furious grating of Mateo von Bewitcher really is that tasty cherry on that blackened metal pie. Because this strikes two birds with one stone. First, this reviewer would not be able to stomach yet another high-soaring metal vocalist. We had our share, and the real good ones are few and far between. And second, MvB‘s contribution to metal glory always adds that elusive whiff of proto-metal that came before the rise of the beastly NWoBHM behemoth.

All of this comes with a gazillion of hooks, licks, and insane solos that suddenly pop up out of nowhere. Bewitcher truly wastes no second sinking their red-hot metal claws into the eardrums of their fans. Yet, suddenly, you get those weird breaks that stop the flow and end up in some chanting. I guess that they meant to blunt the brutality of their wares with some more tribal sounds. But that did not always work.

Although, tracks like Frost Moon Ritual carry a pretty tasty groove that made us listen up. That’s indeed not something that this band does often. And that turns this track, together with the Under the Witching Cross (the title song), into the best two blurbs on this decidedly high octane record.

In the end, Bewitcher‘s 2019 concoction feels raw, somewhat rusty, and truly rugged. A kind of scratchy, barebone slab of metal that likes to draw blood with its razor-sharp edges. It is – indeed – that kind of metal that this reviewer still craves to this day.

In other words, those modern polished Extreme Metal records out there often lack that grinding power of old-school steel. And this means that Under The Witching Cross will – for sure – beat its younger sibling by a few lengths. Its rough-hewn alloy truly triumphs and makes us yearn for a live concert in a sweaty music hall.

And that is the law.

Record Rating: 7/10 | LabelShadow Kingdom Records | Web: Facebook
Release Date: 10 May 2019


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