2001, Full Moon Productions
You're going to read a lot about this band's rapaciousness, their 'brutality', their allegiance, somehow, to the cult of Blasphemy, following along the lines of that band's two pivotal releases, but it would be intelligent to take all of that with a grain of salt if you haven't heard this band before for yourself. To be honest, I don't know why people reference Blasphemy when discussing Black Witchery, because these two bands really have very little in common, and even less in common with Conqueror - another band that's thrown into the ring when these two bands meet. Really, the only thing these bands have in common is a certain form of vocal wipeout that is created when a vocalist distorts his voice (whether run through a distortion pedal or just an equalizer that increases the intake volume to the point where the signal distorts running into the recorder), and Black Witchery scatters this element over the top of certain songs to tie themselves to Blasphemy (or that band's sound, which they obviously revere as being cult and a good-in-itself) - it's neither the most common form of their vocals or the one they turn to when communication is really called for...like any other kind of effect it is used sparingly, and only for variation, to mix things up a little. When it comes to the root of Black Witchery's sound, they have very little in common with Blasphemy, as that band was always chaotic and unfocused to the point of deconstruction, where their rhythms, melodies, and song writing intent was constantly on the verge of collapse - creating, in the listener's mind of course, a feeling of energetic inspiration, the sort of wild off-the-cuff spontaneity that is often mistaken for some kind of 'freedom' in composition. Black Witchery, on the other hand, are pure structuralists, creating music that always follows certain forms to the bitter end, building riffs on top of each other like reinforced masonry, placing brick after brick of black metal elements on top of each other, one by one, until a very simplistic (and also musically 'pure' - meaning free from extraneous elements, and that's all) and rigid interlocking foundation of melodies and rhythms is created. The most important part of their composition process has to be the choice of what riffs to use in the first few moments of the song, because their song writing only allows for one of three different structures (at least, I counted three, but they are all related, actually), and once the introduction and first main riff is decided, the variations, tempo changes (if any) and the rest of the song is already set in stone. These songs are exquisitely simple to play, and so you know that Black Witchery are not concerned with opening up the communication of atmospheres to the listener so much as creating, through repetition and the energy in the performance of the material, an idea of commitment, resolve, belief, and the maintenance (through a fighting spirit) of black metal's founding aesthetics, right there on the front line, attacking again and again like a spearhead offensive against anyone who would dilute black metal's hatred in the name of false 'progression'. So, as I said above, the main idea when considering Black Witchery is somehow accepting a communication of 'purity', both in their sound design (reducing everything in black metal to its simplest elements, and then spinning endless variations off those primary themes), in their ideology (anti-Christianity, and that seems to be all), in their 'image' (thankfully they don't waste time on that either), and in the emotions presented to the listener over the course of this album. Hatred, anger, and more hatred, and that's all. Precious few microseconds of melancholy, and even fewer tastes of negative 'spirituality' outside of the soul-eroding effects of the fight against Christ - which is a battle against the world, let's be honest. Interesting, isn't it? Black Witchery, when presented with the 'decadence' of black metal, as evidenced by the European tradition of 'diluting' the first sounds of the second wave with overtly 'emotional' elements, respond (as so many other bands have done before them) by stripping the machinery down once again to its bare bones, and then using that skeleton key of traditionalism to open up realms of communication which have been left untapped on these shores for far too long. Even a band like Thornspawn, traditionalists to the core and always backwards-looking, can not even compare to the concentration on fundamentals displayed here. If I am making this band seem overly simplistic (and thus a little boring) I should add that this almost never comes up when you are in this album's dark embrace. Black Witchery's conviction, strength of purpose, and unassailable emotional drive are utterly convincing once this disc begins to spin. From your speakers erupts a low-frequency wall of distorted spite and sonic violence that immediately circles around your European metal-addled aesthetic 'convictions' and suffocates them without mercy. Wave after wave of rigid, lashing, blood-warm aural torture wraps you in its steel arms and squeezes the life from you...slowly or at lightning speed, depending on one's resistance to musical suggestion. The drumming, as insistent and corrosive as a legion of high-end artillery leveled at an Afghani village, just pounds and pounds away at you until you are too weak to offer any kind of resistance. Can you stand up and raise your hand against this constant battery? Not a chance. And again the guitars descend, falling like an ash-filled black rain, their buzzsaw acidity drawing power from a pyre of Christianity's remains just out of sight, layers upon layers of bone debris, burnt churches, the essence of hundreds of fucking corrupt Christian pigs put to the sword, their screams absorbed, gloated over, considered with pride, and then abstracted and bled out through flying fingers on guitars that are little more than weapons of war. The down-tuned, low frequency melodies distill a lethal poison from their alien writhing, and this black blood seeps from your ears onto your tongue, down your throat, into your heart, and over the image of the Nazarene that has been pressed there against your will, and here, in the dark of night, in the silence of soul, it strangles the Redeemer and throws his twisted form to the dogs. From the depths arises the venom of Black Witchery's vocalist, who barks and spits forth blasphemy and dark commands like a rabid animal foaming at the mouth, or a possessed soldier/priest in the grip of his worst nightmare, trying to scream himself awake. Again and again he raises his whip and urges his followers forward. Attack, attack! Hatred this strong is truly a thing of beauty...
I believe that this album is a landmark in American black metal, as it both pushes aside all the arguments over aesthetics that have been transpiring in this country for the last few years and sets down, for future reference (or for bands who wish to follow it) an undeniable link between this country's former Primacy in outright musical hatred and the future of our black metal scene, which as always been divided into a hundred warring camps of pretension and indeterminacy. 'Follow this road' Black Witchery seems to be saying, and I, for one, would love to see this form of music take over from all of the European-influenced rubbish that passes for 'true' black metal in the States. Brutal, uncompromising, pure metal torture, coming to us now when we need it the most, and falling on these ears to be met with legitimate excitement, and a bliss that only arises in me when I listen to bands that are so sure of their convictions that any kind of 'criticism' outside of a head nod and thumbs-up seems to be excessive...just go buy this thing already.
Highly, highly recommended.