Burning Witches – The Witch of the North (Nuclear Blast)Wednesday, 2nd June 2021
Subscribing to a steady release schedule should keep Burning Witches top of mind in developing reliable output that metalheads of the current generation may not be used to. Despite lineup changes, injuries, and a pandemic, The Witch of the North is the quintet’s fourth album in the past five years – a testament to the drive and ambition to keep their eyes on the collective prize for rising up the ranks. Debuting newest second guitarist Larissa Ernst, the ladies from Switzerland and the Netherlands push forward a traditional, 80’s-oriented metal template while injecting some folk, epic, and extreme nuances that diversify the impact of this material.
Attention to the smaller details appears to be a hallmark on most of these songs – specific transitions that can be heavy or harmony-driven, vocal passages that move from bold multi-octave power notes to lower growls or sadistic screams, and mood shifts depending on the feel of the musical components that evoke elements of Amon Amarth to Manowar, Judas Priest to Iron Maiden to Dio. “We Stand as One” for instance starts in a doom/epic-like manner, the guitar work from Larissa and Romana Kalkuhl setting the table through a mixture of mid-tempo jackhammer rhythms and supplementary quick leads that allow vocalist Laura Guldemond to command the aural landscape through her vicious mountain-top melodies. Even when the band choose to go down solemn ballad territory for “Lady of the Woods”, the shifting drum work of Lala Frischknecht, additional male background vocal support, and emotive, bluesy-driven lead break keeps ears riveted. The extreme tremolo harmonies and ferocity during “Thrall” should engage many into modern metal, while “Dragon’s Dream” is another fiery, energetic track featuring blistering shred work, a steady pounding tempo and riffs/hooks that deserve devil’s horns approval to remind this scribe of classic Chastain. Many will enjoy the mythology/witch lyrical content this go around, and the brief intro/outro weather-related theme that ties the feel of the record together in a proverbial way.
The proof for longevity is in the product so to speak – for Burning Witches, they continue to learn, absorb, and apply the proper vision and creativity to deliver a strong album that can appeal to multiple generations of heavy metal followers globally.