Swiss/Dutch conglomerate Burning Witches are back with their fourth full-length in the shape of The Witch of the North; I’ve been monitoring their progress for some while now, and, over the past couple of offerings, 2018’s Hexenhammer and last year’s Dance With The Devil I’ve really detected some progress as the band continues to establish it’s own identity away from mentors Schmier and V.O. Pulver.
Those two giants of Euro metal are still involved here, the former as producer, the latter in a mixing/mastering capacity. But there’s a real sense with this album that the band have become very much the mistresses of their own destiny this time around.
The self-assurance of opening track proper The Witch of the North signals from the start that the band means business. In the past this track, itself the usual BW mix of Manowar and Grand Magus, would probably have passed you by as you tapped your foot absent-mindedly and continued to scan the racing pages for a couple of winners. But today, the sheer force of will behind Laura Guldemond‘s impassioned vocal performance takes you by the scruff of the ears and forces, implores you to listen. This is the tipping point, the time you’ll remember when things changed for Burning Witches and they became bona fide contenders…
In fact it’s Guldemonde who time and again draws you in with her compelling vocal performances (especially an off the chain performance on the balladic Lady of the Woods), but the rest of the band aren’t far behind. Stalwart guitarist Romana Kalkuhl, joined this time in six string duties by new arrival Larissa Ernst, churns out a series of memorable, chugging riffs and melodic solos, whilst Jeanine Grob‘s throbbing bass dances in and out of Lala Frischknecht‘s thunderous percussive blasts in serpentine fashion. This all-round upping of the ante in terms of technique and intensity means that, where once the band drifted within their albums, scratching around for inspiration, they now have the confidence to deal hammer blow after hammer blow from the speakers. Have a listen to the utterly titanic We Stand As One if you’re having trouble believing me.
I’m not going to bore you with a forensic look at all the tracks here; suffice to say that for the first time in this band’s career, they have delivered an album with no weakness whatsoever; if you’ve liked anything from their past, you’re going to absolutely lap this up, believe me!
The Witch of the North releases on May 28th.