CD Review: “In His Infernal Majesty’s Service” by Witchery

Blackened thrash metal supergroup Witchery return after a six year absence with its sixth hellish offering, In His Infernal Majesty’s Service. “Lavey-athan” storms from the abyss like a demon ready to devour innocent souls. The track is full on thrash with chainsaw guitars and punkish drumming. The stomping midsection gives way to an eerie clean guitar and a whispered verse before ending on a heavy note. The chaotic “Netherworld Emperor” is a pugilistic track that strikes from all angles. New drummer Chris Barkensjo showcases his skills here as the track has several time changes but maintains a consistent groove. “Nosferatu” is the initial single and one can see why with its galloping riffs and frontman Angus Norder’s shrieking vocals. The band’s black metal roots show on this track with its dissonant riffs and the atonal guitar lead. Things speed up on “The Burning of Salem” which recalls early Slayer. The suffocating riffs sound like a fiery whirlwind while the drums manage to keep up. The apex of the song is during the middle when we hear a man identifying himself as Salem’s magistrate sentence several defendants to death by hanging. History certainly comes alive on this track. A haunting organ opens up “Escape From Dunwich Valley”which grooves from start to finish. Guitarists Jensen and Rikard Rimfalt put their stamps on this track, as this track as a major Black Sabbath vibe.

 In His Infernal Majesty’s Service main strength is the diverse songwriting. The band draws from death, black, death and even doom metal to forge some unpredictable but dynamic songs. Witchery refuses to play within any parameters, but can play in the pocket when necessary as seen on “Escape From Dunwich Valley.” Musically, the band members all hail from some of metal’s most revered bands. Bassist Sharlee D’Angelo plays in Arch Enemy, guitarist Jensen plays in The Haunted and lead guitarist Rikard Rimfalt played in Seance. These guys can play melodic metal or straight thrash at the drop of a coin. We see this throughout Majesty and it gives the record an extra kick.

The six year absence certainly has not dulled Witchery. In His Infernal Majesty’s Service would please the Dark One as only Witchery can do. It is pure blasphemous heavy metal that rarely lets up. Fans of the band member’s main bands should pick this up as should fans of extreme metal. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and this is the soundtrack for the journey.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official Facebook page:

CD Review: ‘Sunrise to Sundown’ by Spiritual Beggars

Spiritual Beggars keep the rock rolling on its ninth record, Sunrise to Sundown. The title track is a straight forward rocker with a tinge of psychedelia. The song is rather generic despite frontman Apollo Papathanasio’s souful vocals. Things improve on “Diamond Under Pressure” which is a mix of Deep Purple and 80s hair metal. Keyboardist Per Wiberg pulls off a convincing John Hammond impression while Michael Amott throws out a nice bluesy solo. The fast paced “What Doesn’t Kill You” again shows the band drawing inspiration from Purple’s hard rock period. It is a fact paced track layered with guitar and organ leads. It is also a short progressive rock song, clocking in around four-and-a-half minutes. There are a few hard rockers like “Hard Road” and sleaze punk inspired “Still Hunter.” The primitive “I Turn To Stone” is based around a repetitive drum beat that is interrupted by several dreamy acoustic guitar phrases. It is one of the most unique tracks on the record and takes the listener on a ride.

Sunrise to Sundown is strong in some areas and weak in others. The musicianship is disappointing at times because the members played in some of the greatest metal bands of all time. Michael Amott and bassist Sharlee D’Angelo both play in Arch Enemy. In addition, Amott’s musical resume includes Carcass and Carnage. Per Wiberg played in Opeth. Still the songs on Sunrise are not that awe inspiring. I understand that this is a hard rock project, but these guys are perfectly capable of playing stellar rock. There are bright spots when the band finds its groove and a sick lead here and there. However, the record falls a little short.

Sunrise to Sundown is not a bad record. There are some decent tracks and a few good ones. However, the record is just naff and there is a feeling that the group is holding back. I would not recommend this record unless one is a big Spiritual Beggars fan and has to have every record in the band’s discography.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website:

CD Review: ‘Shadow Realms’ by Firespawn

There is nothing like a Swedish death metal supergroup to shake things up. Firespawn is comprised of vocalist L.G. Petrov (Entombed A.D.), guitarist Victor Brandt (Entombed A.D.), bassist Alex Impaler (Necrophobic), guitarist Fredrik Folkare (Unleashed, Necrophobic) and drummer Matte Modin (Raised Fist, ex-Dark Funeral). Firespawn’s debut, Shadow Realms, takes elements from the aforementioned bands and the results are solid. The record’s sound is hard to pin down because the band draws from numerous influences. “The Emperor” melds blast beats with a churning groove below Petrov’s infamous guttural vocals. There is a carefree attitude to the song, in the sense that the band does not constrict itself. This attitude carries throughout the album. The debut single “Lucifer Has Spoken” is dark and sinister with its dissonant melody and pounding drums. “Spirit of the Black Tide” rips like a tornado through a sleepy village. The twisting guitar riffs and galloping drums are relentless from beginning to end. The anthemic “All Hail” walks the thin line between seriousness and silliness. That humorous ambiguity abruptly ends on “Ruination” which is a thrasher. The band even goes djent on “Necromance” further solidifying its refusal to follow the rules. There is no genre in extreme metal this band will not touch.

The band’s carefree and open-minded attitude makes Shadow Realms work. There is no influence that overshadows (couldn’t help it) the other. Some of the songs are technical, brutal knockouts. While other songs are more restrained and simplied. Thus, Firespawn bucks the trend is playing within the parameters of a particular sub-genre. Petrov’s vocal style is guttural but decipherable, which is another strength to the album. Today’s death metal scene is oversaturated with vocalists that would rather grunt and screech as opposed to sing. The music on Shadow Realms is more disturbing and genuine because you can hear from Petrov is saying.

Overall, Shadow Realms is a great debut record. The guys went in with no hang-ups and cranked out a solid metal album. If you enjoy extreme metal, this record is for you.

For news on Firespawn, check out the band’s Facebook page: