If you haven't heard Witchery before, I highly recommend checking out their cover of Restless and Wild that opened up their Witchburner EP in 1999. Beyond the cleverly meta opening that one ups the Accept original, it says almost everything that you'll need to know about this bunch of Swedes, who are on their eighth studio album. They're one of those bands who are always reliable, both in consistent quality and in lack of variance from their previous work. This isn't particularly different from earlier Witchery albums, though it's often slower than I remember them being, but it's solid nonetheless.
I do like my Witchery fast, so my favourite songs are the ones that ratchet up the tempo the most. Witching Hour starts out proceedings at a promising pace, if not at lightspeed, and it sounds good to me, Angus Norder's vocals an evil snarl of a growl. He's new to me, because he joined in 2016 in time for their sixth album, In His Infernal Majesty's Service, and I haven't heard either that or its swift follow-up, I am Legion in 2017. He's their fourth vocalist and he's deeper in tone than the one I remember, Tony Kampner aka Toxine, but just as effective.
There are a few fast songs here. Popecrusher and Churchburner are as uncompromising titles as I would describe their sound, that word a quintessential one to use to describe Witchery. Under the Altar starts and ends blistering, but varies its tempo throughout for impressive effect. A Forest of Burning Coffins is the punkiest track the band have to offer this time out, which unfolds with that Accept on speed mindset and it surely has to be my favourite song here. For the more traditional Accept sound, check out the solo in the second half of Crucifix and Candle.
I should add that A Forest of Burning Coffins includes a full stop on a dime that's absolutely pristine too, an effective way to highlight how tight this band remains, even with only two founder members left and a new bassist in Victor Brandt, who replaced Sharlee d'Angelo, another founder member, earlier this year. Those originals, by the way, are the guitarists, Patrik Jensen and Richard Rimfält, who goes more subtly by Richard Corpse.
Don't Burn the Witch and Storm of the Unborn are mid-tempo, as is Left Hand March, whose name highlights why some of these tracks are slower. They feel like marches, because they may be slower than the highlights but they're as heavy and as in your face, a militaristic rhythm maintaining the impact, even with a hint of what sound like keyboards midway. That's not a typical sound for them.
Neither are the monks chanting behind Er steht in Flammen, but this one serves as an interlude, a plain chant texture sitting behind what sound like preparations for burning a witch to death, told in both German and English. This band do stick to their theme pretty consistently. It's a rare song that isn't about witches, fire or the oppressions of the Christian church and many of them could be argued to be about all three. Even as an interlude, it's longer than Under the Altar, which is ninety seconds of instrumental fun.
And really there's not a heck of a lot more to say. You're either going to like Witchery or you won't. If you do, they're never going to let you down, because every album is going to feature an array of uncompromising—I can't leave that word alone when talking about Witchery—slabs of the kind of metal that scared your siblings when you were growing up. If you don't, then this won't convince you otherwise. It is what it is, just like the cover art is overly simple but still does everything that it's tasked to do.