Bewitcher – Cursed Be Thy Kingdom Review

I’ve given out a 4.0 or twenty-one in my time, but this is the first time that one of 4.0ldeneye‘s highly 4.0nored 4.0nies returns 4.0me for yet another s4.0t at glory. Just under two years ago, Portland, Oregon’s Bewitcher released Under the Witching Cross, their sinister sophomore platter of blackened speed metal tunes, and I still haven’t been able to locate my socks after the resulting off-blowing. That record was oozing with attitude, and every track was a killer, with one of my favorite cuts being the blackened rock — verging on, dare I say, blackened hair metal — track, “In the Sign of the Goat.” I was stoked to hear that the band had been picked up by Century Media for follow-up effort Cursed Be Thy Kingdom, but as the release drew near, and the first two singles seemed to lean a little too much in that rock ‘n roll direction, I began to worry. Could Bewitcher possibly transition into a more classic metal/rock sound while still conjuring that same blasphemously rebellious spirit found writhing within the blackened speed metal orgy that was Witching Cross?

My first impression was one of disappointment, but I think that’s pretty natural when an album’s predecessor left such an enduring mark on your heart. A cool, western-style acoustic intro track begins the album and gives way to “Death Returns…,” a straightforward punk song that initially sounds a bit like a blackened The Offspring, and it’s immediately clear that this iteration of Bewitcher is a far more polished product than that found on Witching Cross. First single “Satanick Magick Attack” immediately follows and sounds like vocalist M. von Bewitcher is singing over a classic Judas Priest song. The initial spin seemed to confirm my concerns about the band’s new direction, and I walked away feeling like Bewitcher‘s best days might be behind them.

But then I did what every decent music reviewer should do. I purified myself of any preconceived notions about what Bewitcher should sound like and came back to the record as a blank slate. And wouldn’t you know it, a curious thing happened. Cursed Be Thy Kingdom began to reveal its forbidden secrets to my freshly opened heart. Sure, “Satanick Magick Attack” and fellow single “Mystifier (White Night City)” are fun examples of blackened Priest worship, but they fit right in next to songs that capture the classic Bewitcher sound. “Electric Phantoms” gives me those Kill ’em All feels that I got from Witching Cross, the title track is a ferocious blackened speed anthem, and “The Widow’s Blade” just might be one of my favorite Bewitcher tracks of all time. The latter is literally out for blood, committing regicide with razor-sharp, surgical precision. I’ve included the awesome video for “Valley of the Ravens” below as an example of how the band’s newfound rock ‘n’ roll sound can be just as heavy as their faster moments.

There are a couple of tracks that don’t quite reach the heights of the others, but these hardly break the deal. “Metal Burner” feels a bit like speed metal by-the-numbers, and closer “Sign of the Wolf” features some cool down-picked riffing, but both ultimately land closer to “good” than “great.” The production on Cursed Be Thy Kingdom sounds great, and the more polished sound complements the band’s transition towards classic rock/metal. All three of these dastardly gentlemen know their way around their instruments, but since his voice and guitar playing dominate the stage, it’s hard not to give VIP honors to M. von Bewitcher. I saw these guys play live in Seattle in the Before Times, and I can confidently say that he’s a genuinely great metal frontman. If you need some morsels to sample, try “Electric Phantoms,” “Cursed Be Thy Kingdom,” “Valley of the Ravens,” and “The Widow’s Blade.”

At the end of the day, I’d still rate Under the Witching Cross above Cursed Be Thy Kingdom, but patience and open-mindedness have shown that Bewitcher have a knack for crafting great songs that transcends strict genre constraints. I closed my 2019 review of Witching Cross by saying, “fiendishly fun, this is music that demands to be blasted, and it’s arrived just in time for hot summer night rituals.” Ditto in 2021.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: April 16th, 2021

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