Look at that album title. Look at that art. Now that is a gimmick! Forgive my exuberance, but after only just overcoming the trauma-induced tinnitus from my previous attempts at thrash, Witchtrap prove that good things come to those who scour the promo sheet with a fine-toothed comb. Any band billing themselves as “Endless Pain-meets-Evil Invaders” automatically goes on my to-do list, but prior offerings left me pining for their spiritual forebears instead. Fortunately, Witchtrap’s fourth album Trap the Witch shakes up a career of unimpressive mimicry with a zero-shits-given attitude and enough charisma to get elected President of your wife’s pants.
If nothing else, twenty years with Colombian metal acts like Erzebet and Nightmare have taught the trio that modern throwback thrash isn’t as much about cutting a classic-sounding riff as cutting a classic shit-eating grin. “Lemmy” flashes all twenty-nine of its pearly whites, goofing around on the amp before making good on that 1980’s time machine promise. Strapped to a missile with a pin-up of Dave Carlo1 painted on the side, the Razor-thin lightning that permeates the opener always seems on the verge of stumbling over its own shoelaces. Frontman Burning Axe Ripper2 emits an hard-edged electricity with his early Mille Petrozza (Kreator) snarl and a vicious riff set that invites you to tremolo alongside him. By the time Señor Ripper sneers “49% motherfucker, 51% son of a bitch” with all the attitude befitting the true Kilmister, I’m shredding a private show for the nice government fellows spying on my webcam. Trap the Witch parlays this rock n’ roll panache into an album chock full of the most air-guitarable riffs you can imagine, happy to get you grinning and moshing rather than counting time signatures.
Unsurprisingly Trap the Witch does not bring anything new to the table, barely holding it together through all the snap riff changes, thrash beats and tormented shrieks in the throwback playbook. This lack of innovation could have signaled more uninspiring imitation thrash, but like Deathhammer before them, Witchtrap sell themselves so damn well that Trap the Witch succeeds without a speck of innovation. Though largely content to play themselves out of their shoes, Witchtrap deviate into more experimentation than in years past, slanting “Power of the Maul” into a second-era Slayer slog. However, strong whiffs of “Dead Skin Mask” and Ripper’s cruel near-growls cannot save the unsurprising dearth of technical depth needed to pull the song off. “Hard Thrashing Mania” also finds itself out-of-place. The red-headed stepchild of the “thrash” naming convention adequately breaks up the non-stop shred with its heavy metal chord progression and sauntering gait but lacks the necessary catchiness to stick. Neither are dreadful but are the easiest to skip on a record devoid of a true clunker.
It should go without saying, but Burning Axe Ripper steals the show. Our intrepid hero successfully avoids the amateur sloppiness inherent to the genre, blazing through standouts “Disciple of Death” and “Don’t Lift the Curse” at Whiplash-inducing speeds. His improved vocal quality increases the charm of the record drastically, twisting “The Subtle Touch of Fire” into knots with his contorted snarls and hooky inflections. Much of this can be attributed to the sound engineer, who Witchtrap owe a beer or eight. 2012’s Vengeance Is My Name marked the first time the band avoided a completely flat mix but left both guitar and vocals under-treated. Trap the Witch’s superlative DR9 instead puts the spotlight on Burning Axe Ripper’s dual performance and elevates the album leaps and bounds. Without this development, Trap the Witch likely loses the newt’s eye from its memorable witch’s snare. Who would have thought that production mattered so much in thrash metal?3
Trap the Witch is the grimy, gap-toothed boy who tracks mud all over the house but somehow charms his way out of punishment. With a boatload of charisma to help you overlook their reasonable deficiencies, Witchtrap conjure a really fun album from a well-worn formula. With Hells Headbangers plucking the LP out of Colombia for international release, Trap the Witch is already the band’s biggest success. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the Witchtrapper Generals can wring some more magic out of their next captive.