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Witchsorrow : Hexenhammer

Witchsorrow's latest full-length is a picture-perfect distillation of what the Heavy Metal/Doom crossover ought to look like.

It is without doubt that the community of Doom fans have been anxiously awaiting the release of Witchsorrow's latest album, 'Hexenhammer'. The title is another name for the 'Malleus Maleficarum', the tome written in the 15th century detailing methods with which to persecute and destroy witches. Like those witches of long ago, a parallel can be made to the band, Witchsorrow, laying outside the fringes of the flavor of the month and trendy scene while utilizing the arcane to weave their own musical spell craft. 'Hexenhammer' features a genius formula of monstrously huge Doom riffs, unmistakable groove, and a confident swagger that uses momentum and more Heavy Metal motifs to progress the songs along with intelligent songwriting akin to classics from decades past, including but not limited to the 1970s. With the variety offered and presented in such a pleasing package, the album practically never tires or gets old. One is transported to a more primitive time when evil and rumor went hand in hand and those that drifted away from the norm were seen as malevolent emissaries heralding trouble and sorrow for the masses. Just as those persecuted long ago and forced to live outside the bounds of society, Witchsorrow have perfected their craft and released an album that spells certain Doom for the masses.

'Maleficus' begins the album, a 1:41 minute exercise of mammoth chords laying out the band's intention of cataclysm. The title track follows with plowing riffs that are used as footprints for the vocals to tower over, an exercise colored with Sabbath and Cathedral yet certainly authentic. The fourth track, 'Demons of the Mind,' is one of the strongest on the album. Starting with lurking feedback and a powerfully sinister bass line, the guitar and bass soon converge into one massive riff that sounds like trying to stand up straight on an ever-spinning floor. The subsequent riff has a brilliant groove that perfectly sets up the melodic vocals of the chorus. The end result is a song that indelibly burns itself into a permanent mark upon one's mind.

The following track, 'Eternal,' manifests an overflowing buffet of riffs evoking everything from Trouble to the more Hardcore-tinged, sludgy sound of NOLA's Crowbar. It is abundantly clear this is the most aggressive and abrasive song on 'Hexenhammer'. Contrarily, the most diverse song on the album would certainly be the final track, 'Like Sisyphus'. It begins with a section containing a stomping riff and chest-pounding, almost-yelling vocals. The song is characterized by a duality created by the aforementioned section and a more spaced-out section with dripping phaser-effected guitar. After some massive dissonant hanging riffs at the 5:00 minute mark, a crescendo begins that results in a full-on blasting section in which enough control is retained to allow the chords to sing through yet tension endures, constantly threatening the song's balance. It is truly a most-epic feat of songwriting shining light on a multi-dimensional craft and teasing even more genre-leaping for the future.

Instrumentally, one cannot help but get behind the crunching bass riffs that feature the instrument slightly overdriven to give it edge but not completely fuzzed out. The rhythm section triumphs by mixing superbly fluid drumming with gargantuan dirty bass, a team that accentuates the melodic ideas presented by the guitar. It is a steel-forged battleship guaranteed to stay afloat no matter the turbulent waters. The vocals offer their own ambidextrous style mixing a more abrasive, shouting quality with smoothly-delivered melody, each at their appropriate times. The perfect example of the multifaceted vocals would be the fourth track, 'Demons of the Mind'.

The guitar is truly the highlight here. With a tone that is thick as molasses and containing just enough girth for the genre, the instrument retains clarity where others' tone frizzles into fuzz. A solid command of the instrument is displayed where every nuance of the fingers is translated onto the recording. Credit, of course, should also be given to the production and engineering, but the point is that Necroskull has constructed a substantial tone that speaks to both Doom and Heavy Metal in general. The tasteful use of effects must also be commended for they are sparingly used across the recording in the guise of phaser, chorus, and wah-pedal, among others to decorate the songs with the amount of color foreseen in the vision of the songwriter.

Where Witchsorrow succeed with their sound is through basing the songs on simple ideas as the foundation. These are in turn open for elaboration, and the songs then are dyed with whatever suitable adornment they seek to use. What perhaps makes the album so appealing is that the band mixes classic forlorn, dismal notes with aggression and a sheer tenacity that evokes the gamut between bands like Pentagram and The Obsessed to bands like Down with their southern-fried groove and intensity. While the band fits neatly into the Doom genre, this album carries so very much Heavy Metal thunder that it not only can easily stand on its own in that larger genre but also serve as a gateway drug of sorts to bring new fans into the fold of the more exclusive one. While other bands go off the deep end in experimentation, alienating many fans, Witchsorrow thankfully are on a mission to keep Heavy Metal in Doom.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Maleficus
2. Hexenhammer
3. The Devils Throne
4. Demons of the Mind
5. Eternal
6. The Parish
7. Like Sisyphus

Duration : Approx. 42 minutes

Visit the Witchsorrow bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-05-26 by Chris Hawkins
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