War metal bands Black Witchery and Revenge issued their new release on tax day, April 15, with each band recording three new songs of their trademark sound, which their biography eagerly informs us is inspired by Blasphemy and Sarcofago. With excellent and intriguing cover art, and raw but clear production, this release should appeal to fans of the genre.
Black Witchery tear into their three tracks with a studied recklessness and noisy attack. These shorter songs use the standard circular structure with a final detour, but the band inserts rhythmic breaks throughout — the war metal equivalent of a breakdown in deathcore — to build intensity. Most riffs follow the rock/grindcore paradigm of a static chord, possibly with a chromatic offset, establishing a rhythm to which a fill is added. These riffs resemble faster version of punk hardcore riffs in minor key with lower tuning and faster, more precise playing. This shows a heritage with more in common with Napalm Death than Immortal and a lack of the atmosphere and uniquely shaped songs that made the Blasphemy proto-black metal grindcore hybrid work well, as well as an absence of the melodic structuring of the Black Witchery demo. The relentless aggression of these songs will make them popular but they will not be as memorable as Blasphemy or Sarcofago. If this band wishes to improve, their first step will be to worry less about being intense enough and worry more about shaping that intensity so that at the end of each track, a profound shifting of mood and idea leaves the listener in awe. This was the standard Blasphemy achieved on the best moments of Fallen Angel of Doom and the direction Sarcofago indicated their material should take with songs like “The Black Vomit.” Of these three tracks, “Curse of Malignancy” is my favorite for its directed power that forcibly enacts a concise regimen that achieves the feeling of warfare at least in concept.
Revenge takes a different approach to war metal through riffs longer in duration which use the same surging technique but depend on active drums to break pattern with accents and spur the riff on to change. This technique can rally the attention of the listener and is often used in marching bands. It however creates a reliance on the drums, which although it makes the surge tremolo riff technique less important, also relegates guitars to a secondary role and creates a type of static riffing that resembles doom metal sped up to grindcore paces. Much like Black Witchery, this music is almost exclusively chromatic, which gives it the primitive and violent feel prized by fans. Revenge also tackle Bathory “Equimanthorn,” but in imposing their own rhythmic standards they enhance the jerky and sing-song nature of this tune (comparable to Mayhem “Deathcrush”) and add nothing to the original, so it stands out barely. This band has always been one of the more technically proficient voices in war metal and while their music is enjoyable in a single listen, the songs are too similar in approach, topic and technique for prolonged listening. “Revenge” rounds out this three-song EP and may be my favorite track on this side for its compact, solidly focused assault.