If you have a blackened thrash band, your band name must have the word “witch” in it. So it was written in the Great Book Ov Heavy Metal, so it was obeyed by Skeletonwitch, Witchaven, Bewitched, Witching Hour, Witchery, and countless others I’m sure are out there. El Salvador’s Witchgöat are the latest addition to these unholy ranks and they’ve already earned my respect by having both an umlaut and a goat reference in their name. Formed in 2016 by guitarist and Salvadoran underground veteran P. Scyther (ex-Dismal Gale, ex-Dreamlore), the quartet’s aim is to play blackened thrash in a way that combines the old school with more melodic ideas. How does debut Egregors of the Black Faith fare?
Wait, what was the question? Sorry, I was too busy thrusting my gauntlet-clad arms in the air and banging my fucking head for the master in Hell!1 Witchgöat are a wild bunch, essentially sounding like what would happen if you took the foundational blackened thrash of Aura Noir, added in the frenzied nature of Nifelheim, and topped it off with the explosive and occasionally melodic riffing of Bloodlust. Songs typically don’t follow clear structures, with one or two primary ideas holding everything together amidst an onslaught of side-riffs and a plethora of surprisingly clear, fast solos that ring with an almost medieval flair. The final ingredient in the cauldron is vocalist M. Miasma (Invocation of Death, Destroyer Attack, other bands neither of us have heard of), who vomits out a garbled rasp that favors scalding evil over outright aggression.
First proper track “Proliferation of the Dark Souls” exhibits this sound best, with melodic and thrashy riffs that soon give way to an extended midsection of harmonized leads and the album’s only scream-along chorus. It’s a fun and fail-safe start that soon proves only a prelude to the true variety Witchgöat conjure. “Emanations from the Underworld” mixes things up in its second half with a slowed pace and backing choirs, while late highlight “Umbra Regit” is a belligerent piece of pillaging speed metal fury. “Putrefaction of Souls” and “Eyes of the Profane” hew closer to classic Gorgoroth-style black metal, the former working better than the latter with its whiplash tremolos, predatory opening chug, and brief chunky crescendos. Yet closer “Beyond the Soil of the Dead” throws the biggest curveball, interrupting its black thrash attack with a triumphant heavy metal riff that sounds like the happiest version of Iron Maiden you’ve ever heard.
It’s this slightly random riff that highlights Egregors‘ biggest flaw. With an album that so frantically and relentlessly veers between ideas, at times the songs become hard to follow and the strength of individual riffs gets lost in the shuffle. A perfect example comes during “Into the Jaws of Death,” when a riff appears that could have been a world destroyer if properly employed in the song’s second half, but is instead relegated to a minor aside in the first. Fortunately, while the dry production is a bit stuffy, the smoldering guitar tone is a good fit, and the leads fly clearly and victoriously over everything. Even the thick bass guitar is a pleasure as it gurgles just below the riffs.
Wikipedia tells me “Egregor” is an occult concept representing a “collective group mind.” Egregors indeed feels like the collective influence of many blackened thrash bands striking in one massive expulsion of energy. While Scyther could do a slightly better job controlling this energy in the future, it’s hard to deny his knack for writing scorching and varied riffs, not to mention the delightful fervor he exudes while ricocheting between everything. The result is a wild and fun debut that’s sure to please genre aficionados while welcoming Witchgöat as a promising new member of the blackened thrash coven.