Harnessing the foreboding essence of atmospheric black metal, Hungarian duo Witcher presents their latest EP, Boszorkányszimfóniák, an ambitious project that reimagines classical masterpieces through the lens of their dark, ferocious soundscapes. This release, through Filosofem Records, strives for a tour de force status, merging the grandiosity of classical compositions with the raw intensity of black metal, hoping to offer a profoundly unique auditory experience. It has not been entirely successful in that aim, but the release is not without some worth.

The EP opens with Hymn of the Cherubim, a reading of Tchaikovsky‘s Op. 41, No. 6. Here, the artist immediately launches a feint,  employing stately, perhaps funereal and sombre keyboard melodies which remain truthful to the original piece. The result is a haunting juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane, creating an atmosphere thick with both reverence and dread. But little in the way of black metal.

Handel‘s Sarabande, from Suite No. 4 in D Minor, follows. The original’s stately grace is retained, Witcher infuses it’s familiar refrain with a sense of impending doom through the use of bluesy, progressive rock drumming. This transformation from baroque elegance to almost torpid menace highlights the artist’s ability to reinterpret classical motifs while maintaining their intrinsic beauty. The intensity of double kick and fast snare drums adds almost an anti-nuance in the piece’s final denouement.

Åses død from Grieg‘s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, sees the artist’s interpretation as a solemn meditation on loss, carefully capturing the spirit of Grieg’s original composition.

The Spring Waltz (Mariage d’Amour), attributed to Chopin, sees the EP takes a slightly lighter turn. The flowing piano lines are preserved but are now surrounded by modern instrumentation, creating a contrast that wants to draw the listener deeper into the maelstrom but leaves them slightly confused by an arrangement that errs too close to the sort of music that might have sparked the imagination of a chocolate advertiser in a distant decade. As the centrepiece of the release this can only be construed as a failure.

The EP progresses with  The Cloud-Capp’d Towers  from Vaughan WilliamsThree Shakespeare Songs. The protagonist’s rendition of this piece is both grand and intimate, capturing the ethereal quality of the original while imbuing it with a visceral edge that is both captivating and unsettling. Vaughan Williams may yet be considered slightly too fragile for the attention of black metal musicians, but here, dealt with with sympathy and an innate feel for the spirit of the piece, synergy is attained.

The penultimate piece,  O Fortuna  from Orff‘s Carmina Burana, is arguably the most recognisable piece in the collection. Those hearing the record may already have a favourite interpretation, heavy metal or otherwise, and it must be noted that the artist here applies it’s most literal heavy metal interpretation to the frame of the piece. Listeners will decide if this is a success, but will agree that the intent and execution are unquestionable.

The only original piece closes the record. Summernight Melancholy serves as a reflective coda to the intense journey, encapsulating the spirit of the EP with its sombre, atmospheric tones and intricate musicality recalling, perhaps, the bucolic folk of fellow countryman Bartók. Those unfamiliar with the more renowned pieces may feel that it fits perfectly with them; this must be seen as a success on the part of the composers.

Throughout Boszorkányszimfóniák, the duo of Karola Gere on keyboards and Roland Neubauer on guitars and drums showcase their understanding of the relationship between classical music and heavy metal at an elemental level. The production, while maintaining an aura of rawness, allows each instrument to shine, creating a rich, layered soundscape that is both dense and discernible. This meticulous attention to detail is evident in every track, making the EP a cohesive and immersive experience.

In conclusion, Boszorkányszimfóniák is an honestly executed blend of two seemingly disparate genres, brought together with skill and passion by the artists. This EP could be enjoyed byr fans of both classical music and black metal, offering a fresh and sometimes exhilarating perspective on timeless compositions. An open mind and a willing spirit are all that is required to appreciate the dark experimentation on offer here. The artists has crafted an album that goes at least some way to revealing their artistry and vision, a symphony to sonic witchcraft that lingers long after the final note has faded.

Boszorkányszimfóniák is out now.