ALBUM REVIEW: Bewitcher - Deep Cuts & Shallow Graves
*Deep Cuts & Shallow Graves will be released November 17th, 2023 on Century Media Records*
Portland, Oregon's Bewitcher have been terrorizing the black and speed metal landscape for over 10 years now. With strong releases like 2021's Cursed Be Thy Kingdom, the band has been delivering their blackened, speed and thrash sound in the veins of legendary acts like Venom, Bathory and alongside fellow speed demons in Midnight and Hellripper. To celebrate a decade of destruction, the band is releasing a compilation of some never before heard deep cuts from their discography, some new songs, as well as some origins of some of the band's heaviest and well known songs. Let's raise our horns and bang our heads and dive into Bewitcher's origins and legacy with this compendium of chaos.
The album opens with "Manifesting Darkness", a thrashy and classic sounding heavy metal track. Vocals from Unholy Weaver of Shadows & Incantations are snarly and gritty, a hybrid of Cronos of Venom and Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead. Delivering a blackened heavy metal sound to the track, with almost elements of crust punk in its guitar playing. A strong, headbanging opening track, that I can picture the pit going crazy for at one of the band's shows. Great guitar solo by Unholy Weaver, over the driving thrash-laden drums of Aris Wales. Following that new song is "Our Lady of Speed". A great one-two punch from the previous song, the songs unmatched energy along with pounding double bass adds that driving, nostalgic sound of classic heavy metal and speed metal from the 80's. With an awesome sounding chorus, with gang vocals and gritty vocals and wailing guitars, it is such a heavy track and the band sounds like they are just enjoying themselves in the performance. On their cover of Mötley Crüe's "Bastard", the song just sounds fun and invigorating. The vocals with a gritty and gruff sound to it almost makes the song almost sound like a Bewitcher original. Total fist-pumping essence and energy to the song and an awesome cover of one of my favorites from Crüe and Bewitcher does a great job covering it and making it their own in the band's performance.
Now we get into the deep cuts of the band with songs from the band's early demo releases. The next three tracks come off the Midnight Hunters 2015 demo. "Speed 'Til You Bleed" opens with an amazing high scream and driving pedal to the metal opening guitar riff with building drums. Definitely more classic heavy metal sounding in its guitar tone and playing, but the song is still heavy and just relentless speed and intensity with the vocals and drums. Almost sounding like the band has been around since the 80's with its performance, play style and production of the demo. And production wise, sounds really good for a demo. The demo's title track "Midnight Hunters" is another nostalgic tugging feeling track. The riff is so catchy and toe-tapping, while banging your head and mimicking Unholy Weaver's epic guitar strums before the chorus. The last one from this demo, "Rome is On Fire", continues that heavy d-beat drumming and gritty/gravely vocals with the pace slowed down a bit before kicking back up to full speed in the pre-chorus and bridge, along with ominous chanting amidst a driving drum and palm muted riff into a heavy and quick guitar solo. Almost akin to Metallica's "Trapped Under Ice" in its style and energy in the song's style and performance.
The next four tracks come off the band's Wild Blasphemy 2013 demo. With the opening horror-laden tinge on the demo's title track, the track builds atmosphere before an awesome opening thrash-tinged guitar riff starts the song. Vocals are almost more black metal in its delivery and its snarled delivery. The song is speed metal in vein with the sound of the guitars channeling Venom's early releases. Another fist-pumping sounding song, which I can picture the crowd pumping along to the snare hits and banging their heads along to it. "Rebellion at The Gates of Heaven" has a great opening drum fill, leading into a classic 80's sounding style heavy metal riff before we get HEAVY. The speed intensifies and hits that thrashy feeling, the aggression and vocal delivery has a Kreator like feel to it and it sounds SO good. Especially with the vocals soaked in reverb, making his vocals sound so much more aggressive and demanding, matching the song's go for the throat feel. "Black Speed Delirium" and "Trial of Swords" are another great one-two punch of speed and thrash, soaked with the essence of the heavy metal a lot of us grew up on. The band knows how to juggle between speed, crust and black metal so well on these tracks. And again, for demos, these have pretty damn good production.
One of the last deep cuts comes from the band's 2013 demo Satanic Panic. "Bewitcher" has an even more black metal production style on the vocals, with so much cavernous reverbs, it makes it sound like Unholy Weaver is shouting miles away from the band as they play front and center at a hundred miles an hour and with full force. Though the cavernous vocals might make lyrics a little hard to understand, the song's energy and intensity makes up for it. Drums are prominent and punching hard in the headphones, with fast, close to blast beat snare hits and double bass leading the charge into the battle the band is crying out to start. "Sin is in Her Blood" starts with fast-paced drumming and double bass, matched with speed and driving tremolo-like guitar playing. Channeling the torchbearers of early heavy metal with the technicality and heavy but also catchy sounding guitar riffs. The last track from this demo is "In The Night", with a more slowed down, opening, almost sludge metal sounding. With its bass poking through the ringing guitars and building drums, the song almost sets the stage for a grand presentation. Then the riff kicks in, with the song continuing that classic drum heavy, fast chugging riff with that Cronos/Lemmy hybrid vocals drenched in reverb. The song is a strong, unrelenting song with the drums punching through and just relentless hitting your ears with disregard for your hearing.
"Harlots of Hell" starts with the screaming of the title and a thundering bass behind it as the song kicks the door in, with the bass shining behind the riff. Vocals are drenched in reverb and add intensity and force in the delivery. Drums shine again with driving and speed at the halfway mark, showing the band knows how to let everyone shine and when to lead and take turns being highlighted. "Hot Nights, Red Lights" channels that Mötley Crüe energy in the riff. A fun sounding riff with the guttural and harshness in the vocals to almost countering the effect makes the song their own and I had the song actually a repeat a couple times before moving on. "In The Sign of The Goat" starts with a nice, simple drum pattern with wailing, reverb and chorus drenched guitars, building the song with a classic heavy metal sounding opening. I love the riff picking up when the vocals kick in, almost giving me an instant stank face "oh that's good" feel. A little slower tempo than the other songs on the album, it is an almost slow burn like feel to the track until the double bass punches through on the chorus. "Hedgerider" closes the album out with the band's beautiful amalgamation of traditional heavy metal, infused with the gravelly and gritty black metal vocals, coinciding with driving drums throughout the track
This record is a perfect summary of the band and is a great introduction to fans who are checking out the band for the first time. The demo versions, though again, sound REALLY good for demos, channel the band's love and passion for speed metal and classic heavy metal, while tinging it with elements of black metal in the vocal delivery. Bewitcher is one of those bands you need to be listening to. With ten years of touring and channeling the origins and paying homage to the legacy of this genre, this band deserves more hype, more praise and is doing truly what heavy metal is. Playing fast, loud, in your face, not giving a shit, and leaving you wanting more.
SCORE: 10 / 10
1) Manifesting Darkness
2) Our Lady of Speed
3) Bastard (Mötley Crüe cover)
4) Speed 'Til You Bleed (Midnight Hunters 2015 demo)
5) Midnight Hunters (Midnight Hunters 2015 demo)
6) Rome is On Fire (Midnight Hunters 2015 demo)
7) Wild Blasphemy (Wild Blasphemy 2013 demo)
8) Rebellion at The Gates of Heaven (Wild Blasphemy 2013 demo)
9) Black Speed Delirium (Wild Blasphemy 2013 demo)
10) Trial of Swords (Wild Blasphemy 2013 demo)
11) Bewitcher (Satanic Panic 2013 demo)
12) Sin is in Her Blood (Satanic Panic 2013 demo)
13) In The Night (Satanic Panic 2013 demo)
14) Harlots of Hell (2014 demo)
15) Hot Nights, Red Lights (2014 demo)
16) In The Sign of The Goat (2015 demo)
17) Hedgerider (2015 demo)
FFO: Midnight, Venom, Hellripper