Burning Witches – Hexenhammer review

Refreshingly formidable old-school metal 8.5/10Burning Witches Band

Formed in 2015 in Switzerland, Burning Witches released their debut album in 2017 and have quickly returned with their second offering Hexenhammer. The name originates from an ancient tome ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ (The Hammer of the Witches) by a Dominican clergyman which legitimized witch hunts and the extermination of innocents in 1487. Despite its ancient inspiration, the material and horror is all too relevant in modern society and Burning Witches tackle oppression, persecution, violence and factual manipulation within this offering. The album art by Hungarian heavy metal artist Gyula Havancsák depicts a sorceress at an altar, upon which rests an open book from which the ghostly faces of the band emanate. A great illustration that hints at the magic within.

This opus commences with The Witch Circle, it is almost an incantation or perhaps a summoning. A little reminiscent of the extraordinary ‘space whispers’ of Gilli Smyth (the good witch Shakti Yoni) of 70’s acid progmasters Gong. It sets the tone and is very interesting as an introduction, before the guitars fly in for Executed the first single release from the album. Based on the judicial murder of Anna Göldi in 1782 as the  ‘last witch‘ in Europe. Urging: Fight till your last breath we are urged, the musicianship is worthy of any classic thrash band and while lyrically simplistic, the vocals and range of Seraina is staggering. Could this be the lovechild of Grace Slick and Rob Halford? Or Doro Pesch and Ronnie James Dio? These ladies rock and they rock hard. It’s fast, fun and extremely catchy. The frenetic pace slows somewhat for the powerful and groovy Lords of War it’s an upbeat hit of classic metal. Open Your Mind comes in hard and heavy but strongly melodic with great harmonies, tempo and changes which I hope takes the listener on a voyage of discovery. (It’s a little bit proggy, I’m a sucker for that!) Don’t Cry my Tears is the obligatory power ballad, but it is gorgeously impassioned, pained and has an exquisitely understated guitar solo. It’s a surprisingly rousing track which demonstrates the true versatility of the band. Maiden of Steel takes us back to classic power metal, Dungeon of Infamy is a chilling bridge into Dead Ender and its incredibly catchy riffs and soul crushing bass hooks. . The rhythm section is thunderously stirring, the dynamism leaving you breathless,

Hexenhammer, the title track and second single which covers the story of this 15th century book and instrument of destruction for women. The track is accompanied by a video partially filmed at the Swiss Witchcraft museum which is their best official video yet.

Possession speeds it up further, we are hurtling at breakneck speed into a dominion of darkness and revenge. Maneater with its ‘stay for dinner’ chorus and rabid eating background noises is both humorous and entertaining as a penultimate track.  Truly it is a brave or naïve band that tackles the legacy of Dio, a true rarity for justice to be done. Burning Witches not only deliver Holy Diver but gift wrap it and send it first class!

With strong old-school influences, it’s refreshing for a relatively new band not to be derivative and to bring a typhoon of freshness to the genre. The Judas Priest similarities cannot be escaped, their debut album covered Jawbreaker magnificently and there is a distinct likeness in range, strength and the pitch of vocals despite one being a Brummie bloke and the other a Swiss ice maiden.

Speedy, sleazy, witty and wry with epic delivery I thoroughly enjoyed and anxiously await to see them live.

Burning Witches Album
Tracklist:

  1. The Witch Circle
  2. Executed
  3. Lords Of War
  4. Open Your Mind
  5. Don’t Cry My Tears
  6. Maiden Of Steel
  7. Dungeon Of Infamy
  8. Dead Ender
  9. Hexenhammer
  10. Possession
  11. Maneater
  12. Holy Diver

Hexenhammer from Burning Witches is released on November 9th, 2018 via Nuclear Blast Records and can be purchased here

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