Witch-Hunt hail from Virginia and were formed by brothers Brian and Ben Straight at a young age. The band would go through multiple periods and lineup changes that resulted in only one full length and a band trying to find its identity through various styles and constant lineup changes. On Darkened Anthology 1992-2002 the band showcase the best songs of each period in a “best of” style and such each section will be reviewed separately.
A lot of influences are condensed into these four songs with the first two continuing in the style set by the Straight brothers while “Conjuring the Divine” embraces percussive Death metal influences. and “When All Hope is Lost” explores Black metal. The Black metal influences on the last song sandwich a few good ideas that don’t go anywhere. The band opt for a single four chord riff that drowns in its own self pity. “Conjuring the Divine” starts with two melodies that alternate well but then when the band start to reuse the motifs in other riffs the end up losing focus until they recapitulate the initial ideas. The first two songs are composed in a similar way but in a style more akin to Merycful Fate than to Death metal and the use of repeating consonant phrases allow them to play with countering ideas in the same key before recapitulating. While not providing anything new within the genre and the first sign of decline
At this point Brian Straight has left the band and the Black metal influences that were previously seen are now the centre pieces of what is on offer here. The band follow the trend of consonant melodies, flowing synths and soaring female vocals. Saccharine melodies dominate here as the band explore major chord shapes in these droning songs that state their ideas to the point of boredom without doing much with them. While the band show a rich melodic vocabulary as they transition from one idea to another with long arpeggiated melodies, it is all déjà-vu in a completely linear form with each part not adding to the previous part in terms of momentum or tension and there are no highlights to be found as one passage leads to another until the song ends. The band at this point were capable of writing interesting melodies but squandered that potential.
Though originating from different these primitive demos of the Straight brothers playing show promise. Brian’s vocals are not quite developed while Ben shows promise in a frantic style that plays around the riffs while providing intensity to the riffs. Here the duo play a mixture of early Sodom,Hellhammer and Cannibal Corpse’s Butchered at Birth. While showing nothing new here Brian is adept at connect his ideas through nimble chromatic segments that fit perfectly together as these two songs lead to predictable yet satisfying climaxes that conclude both songs well. An innate understanding of the bands they were emulating combined with a certain playfulness makes these two songs enjoyable.
The band reach their peak on these four songs even though there is a large modern metal influence to these songs. Here we see multiple influences glued together to create each song. Riffs are repeated far too many times which does kill the overall flow here at times especially when the percussive riffs fall into Groove metal territory. Brian Straight showcases some good soloing in the style of James Murphy on Cause of Death which enriches the chord progression underneath while showing some flair. The arrangements are at the best here as the band use the more Heavy metal like melodies as a climax before returning back to the song’s central melody. While the riffs are fairly standard they work as the band under the Straight brothers have always been good at reusing the motifs to continuously move the song forwards without falling into riff salad territory. Had the arrangements been less obvious and the modern influences removed, this would have formed the base for a very interesting album.
The twilight era of the second incarnation of this band shows their best material in the Black metal style. Forswearing their droning style, there are twists and turns in a labyrinthine style that hearken back to the death style. A mixture of the saccharine and some Bal-Sagoth like passages make this very easy to listen to for the uninitiated but very derivative despite some really well developed melodies and the manipulation of motifs.
In reality the band should be divided into two halves with the second half being led by ex Dying Fetus drummer Erik Sayenga and showing a complete departure from what the band were doing at first. While the quality of the musicians increased with the second iteration, the quality of the music fell as the essence of this band was the initial vision of both brothers which the band strayed from. Unfortunately the brothers never got to fully realize this vision as the challenges of the real world proved to be too much to dedicate the necessary time for Death metal. Overall the record shows the passion shared by two siblings and a friend and how it evolves in the strangest of ways. While the record doesn’t add anything new to the genre it provides good insight on a band that once had a large amount of potential but were never able to exploit it.