Witchery – Nightside Review

What’s left to say about Witchery that hasn’t been said before? Everyone knows them. And if you don’t, you’re an idiot. Formed by the core of Satanic Slaughter after leaving in ’97, Witchery has been on a roll, releasing album after Swethrash album. Since its debut, Witchery has honed its sound and given us some of the tastiest thrash licks. With each new vocalist, the band evolved to capture their distinct voices—from the uniqueness of Toxine to the catatonic Legion to current pavement-cracker Angus Norder. And each time, the band traverses a new era. For these newer eras, the band has increased its heaviness to better partner with the vicious vocal contributions. And it’s served them well—until 2017’s run-of-the-mill outlier, I Am Legion. While it was a solid enough album, it was a letdown compared to back-to-back masterpieces, WitchKrieg and In His Infernal Majesty’s Service. Five years later, one wonders where Nightside will lie in the band’s extensive catalog.

My biggest worry coming into Nightside was the departure of Sharlee D’Angelo. If you know the band, you know how vital D’Angelo’s bass presence has been to the songwriting. But my worries were quickly dispelled when I learned their new bassist was Victor Brandt. Brandt has played alongside Entombed, Entombed A.D., and Dimmu Borgir, and is a veteran in his own right. My next fear was how much of the slow, meandering moments of I Am Legion would spill into this new release? Witchery is at its best when combining speedy thrash with memorable choruses. Sadly, I Am Legion had very few of those. As I contemplate this, I realize I’ve burned my dinner and still haven’t spun this new record. With Chipotle on the way, it’s time to settle in and find out for myself.

In classic, Witchery fashion, the low drum intro of opener “Witching Hour” tricks me into turning up my speakers. When the guitars hit, my walls shutter with the absurd increase in volume. The opener is what you’d expect from the band—killer riffage, meaty chorus, and exciting energy. It’s specifically delightful when the final pre-chorus builds and then stops. That split-second pause gives you a chance to prepare your neck for the explosive chorus that follows it. 

Similarly, “Popecrusher” and “Crucifix and Candle” deliver impressive riff assaults and memorable choruses. The first track has mighty thrash riffs that transition from the Swethrash opener to a clever, solo-supporting riff. Then, it ends in classic, Slayer fashion. But, “Crucifix and Candle” is the best of the bunch. It opens with a slick Brandt-led bass lead before settling into a string-sliding groove. After the midpoint, it unleashes a decisive melodic lead made even stronger by the perfect solo contribution from Simon Johansson (Wolf, Memory Garden). Overall, “Crucifix and Candle” is a trve crowd-pleaser whose fist-pumping chorus is sure to have the pit chanting.

While the above tracks are what you’d expect from Witchery, the back-to-back closing pieces are not. But not in a bad way. “A Forest of Burning Coffins” is a three-minute, death-centric beauty best paired with vocals from Carcass’ Jeff Walker. So, of course, they got Walker to do just that. It’s a nasty song with relentless performances and a nifty bass/drum thrash charge after the solo. Its conclusion collides nicely with the title-track closer while increasing two volume levels higher. I don’t know if it’s the promo that’s fucking with me or if it’s a stroke of genius by the band. Either way, it emphasizes the bigness of “Nightside” as it alternates between headbanging groove and a clean guitar outro.

Like all Witchery releases of late, Nightside is a brick-walled affair that strives to convince you that more is moar. Yet, there are filler moments from I Am Legion that spill in. For instance, the useless intermission that is “Er steht in Flammen” and “Under the Altar,” the bland intro to the crushing “Churchburner.” Not to mention the bloated “Left Hand March” that, midway through, feels like they ran out of ideas to support Hank Shermann’s boring-as-fuck solo. But this is an improvement over I Am Legion, even if it still doesn’t touch the stellar releases before it. It’s not a cohesive unit, and I tend to jump around, but fans will find plenty to like on Nightside.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Website: facebook.com/officialwitchery
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2022

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