By Phil Cooper
Something wicked and heavy this way comes. Swiss metal quintet Burning Witches have been on the radar since their self-titled debut release in 2017. However, it was 2018’s follow-up ‘Hexenhammer’ that really put them on the map. Combining elements of NWOBHM, thrash and a unique twist all of their own, Burning Witches have nailed an explosive delivery of heavy metal. Since their previous album they’ve undergone a line-up change and now welcome lead singer Laura Guldemond to their coven. Album number three now looks to capitalise on what they’ve already achieved and push them further.
Following an atmospheric opening with ‘The Incantation’ the album kicks in proper with the full throttle ‘Lucid Nightmare’. Rapid fire drums combined with a twin guitar attack of staccato power chords leads into a galloping charge. Immediately Guldemord puts her stamp on the vocals. A soaring and aggressive delivery that perfectly matches the intensity of the music. The full metal assault barely pauses for breath as the twin guitars battle it out while backed up by the unrelenting rhythm section allowing the vocals to take a commanding role in the melodic delivery. The album progresses into the title track which again delivers across the board. All the traditional metal elements are ticked off the list and it’s clear to hear the influences of Judas Priest and Dio in the mix as the anthemic nature is ramped up.
The anthem side of things continue with ‘Wings of Steel’ a track which was released as a single at the tail end of last year. Once more, all of the main metal ingredients are present and the track opens up into a soaring melody led number that will surely go down well with live audiences with it’s call and response backing vocals and easy to sing-along to chorus. In addition, the dual guitar solo is one of the finest on the album. ‘Wings of Steel’ also incorporates elements of thrash which they go on to develop further in the likes of ‘Sea of Lies’ and ‘The Sisters of Fate’. They’re not afraid to mix together different heavy metal elements and genre styles to produce their sound. Tracks like ‘Necronomicon’ and ‘Threefold Return’ are straight down the line bruisers. The former has a stomping rhythmic drive that propels the track forward delivering a no-nonsense headbanger that again would definitely suit a live crowd inciting a pit to open up. The latter track offers a similar uncompromising groove; however, they’ve blended in the previously heard anthemic like vocals combined with backing harmonies and colossal sounding guitars to create another stand out moment on the album.
It would seem that ‘Dance with The Devil’ is a melting pot or cauldron (sorry) of different metal elements clearly featuring the band’s influences as well as their own style. However, it’s never messy nor incoherent. They’ve executed a perfect blend of hard-hitting adrenaline fuelled metal with the thrash like numbers as well as knowing when to dial back and give the listener breathing space by smashing out the obligatory ballad in ‘Black Magic’. They’ve got a passion for heavy metal and it clearly shines through, each musician has a solid command of her instrument and the harmony between the five-piece allows for the music to retain a sense of excitement and hard-hitting aggression throughout the 12 tracks.
For fans who’ve been on board since the beginning, this album will present a shift in what has gone before. ‘Hexenhammer’ had a raw energy to it that was exemplified by the power of the instrumental aspects and then topped off with the vocal stylings. The rougher edges of the vocals lent an extra weight to the musical delivery. As with any band, a change in line-up can alter the sound. This is true of Burning Witches with ‘Dance with The Devil’, the introduction of Guldemond has shifted the overall sound of the band. However, its not a negative impact. Burning Witches have now progressed to deliver a more rounded, polished sound capable of executing big anthems. Crucially, they’ve still retained their raw power and intensity which initially marked them out. They’re a force to be reckoned with and this album should certainly see them grow their fanbase as they continue to cast a heavy metal spell.
- ‘Dance with The Devil’ is released today (Friday 6 March). You can get your copy HERE.
- Burning Witches are due to support Finnish folk metallers Korpiklaani on their forthcoming dates, starting in Manchester next Friday. However, with the “postponement” of Hammerfest, and the decision by several bands schueduled to appear at the sister HRH AOR event the previous weekend, it is unclear at this stage if this tour will proceed.
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