From Vader to Behemoth, Polish death metal has always rocked my socks off and left me standing in line for all the blastbeats and pierogies I can stomach. From the same foul breeding grounds come the perpetrators behind today’s split. Witchmaster are a long-running blackened-death quartet who mix a raw and barbaric sound and a surprisingly punky edge, with a keen ear for some thrashy riffs to bash your face in and turn your brain to jelly. After flirting with BDSM themes on 2002’s Masochistic Devil Worship, the group really hit their stride when Behemoth‘s Inferno took over on the drumset, first performing on 2014’s seminal Antichristus Ex Utero. On the flip side, Voidhanger are essentially the project that Infernal War‘s Warcrimer and Zyklon formed to keep themselves busy during War‘s extended silence prior to 2015’s excellent Axiom. Like your beefy cousin that used to play football in high school, Voidhanger are a slower, blunter version of War, more focused on menacing riffs and violent force as opposed to machine gun speeds. The players seem promising – how well do they fair?
For Witchmaster, not so well. Their side kicks off with “Permafrost,” a track built off what’s probably the first riff taught in Blackened Death 101. With some frantic notes later introduced between Inferno’s raging blastbeats, it’s not a bad song, but it’s certainly not the ball buster I’d expect from the band that produced Utero. Things only get worse with the follow-up “Tanz Debil,” a cover of German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten that turns out to be a complete mistake with its tumbling, repetitive drumbeat which makes the song sound more like an extended intro than a proper blackened death track. This is the equivalent of listening to a motorcycle rev its engine for 4 minutes without moving an inch while onlookers choke on the fumes and wait for it to do something.
The remaining Witchmaster track is a six-minute live cut consisting of three songs from earlier in the group’s discography, featuring surprisingly more frightening and bestial vocals than their recorded output. The mix remains just as raw and drum-heavy as the studio tracks here, albeit with a spacious ambiance supplemented by audience cheers and devilish shouts of the track titles. The sheer live energy translates well – but in the end, with one decent track, an abysmal cover, and three live tracks, Witchmaster‘s contributions to Razing aren’t anything to write home about.
Fortunately, Voidhanger immediately redeem things with “Burnout Hearts Exhibition,” the first of their three tracks. Like the performance he delivered on 2013’s Working Class Misanthropy, Warcrimer’s scream-shouts are downright maniacal here, and the testicle-crushing groove that follows the thrashing death metal riffs of the verses is equally noteworthy. The mix here is punchier, cleaner, and slightly louder, making for a rousing change after the live recordings that finished Witchmaster‘s side.
What Voidhanger‘s remaining two songs lack in memorability they make up for in sheer potency. Second track “Dyskretny Urok Upadku” alternates cinderblock-to-the-face riffs with whiplashing intervals, finishing with an aggressive progression that’s the sonic equivalent of receiving an uppercut to the face while being sodomized with a blowtorch. “Through the Holocaust of Optimism” stands out for its bouncy rhythm that almost makes it sound like a demented punk song. While I would hesitate to say any of Voidhanger‘s cuts outshine the better moments on their previous full lengths, those looking for a mid-paced collision of black, death, and thrash metal are sure to find some enjoyment here.
In the end, this split is one of those cases where one side is enjoyable, while the other is mostly lackluster. While I’d love to give Razing a heartier recommendation, ultimately Voidhanger‘s contributions aren’t enough to make up for the overall mediocrity of Witchmaster‘s. Still, though this isn’t an amazing or essential record, the inclusion of some fun live tracks and a few new Voidhanger songs make this a cool little release that hardcore fans will probably want to make some shelf space for. Everyone else? Take it or leave it.
DR: 8 [Witchmaster Side]; 7 [Voidhanger Side] | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Third Eye Temple Records
Websites: facebook.com/witchmasterband | facebook.com/voidhangerofficial
Releases Worldwide: January 20th, 2017