Burning Witches – “Hexenhammer” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Metal maiden mayhem! “Hexenhammer” is the sophomore offering from this all female 5 piece from Switzerland formed in 2015, mentored by Schmier from Destruction and now signed to Nuclear Blast to deliver their sonic shock!!! Playing a crucial mix of classic heavy metal inspired by Judas Priest especially in the screaming crescendo vocals of Seraina Telli, not forgetting the twin axe mistresses of founder Romana Kalkuhl and new trooper Sonia Nusselder, as well as the more modern metal tones of Iced Earth, Burning Witches are certainly on fire, while not forgetting their femininity as reflected in their more emotional and sultry tones. Aptly named, they take on the (true) dark story of The Malleus Maleficarum, also known as The Hammer Of The Witches, written by the discredited Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer in the 1400s to elevate sorcery to the criminal status of heresy and prescribe torture (and death) against anyone suspected of being a witch, which in the main at that time, were women. Heavy stuff indeed, and these ladies don’t hold back whatsoever in their delivery given what they see as Kramer’s legacy today be it in the many guises of intolerance, discrimination, racism or sexism! Burning Witches have definitely upped their game here through ultra tight performances and also an excellent sound with plenty of room to appreciate all the musicianship on show here. Through a sterling mix of fast molten headbangers, chundering heavies and the odd ballad, “Hexenhammer” follows the classic formula for a heavy metal album, while continuing to build the identity of the band. As the heavy power riffing and tremolos come wailing in on ‘Executed’, Telli blasts in with her own siren scream and the song really takes off as Lala Frischknecht’s double bass drums pump in the fiery momentum culminating in the catchy shouted out chorus of ‘you’ve been…ex!..e!..cuted!..’, very air punchy indeed. But ladies they are, and so frantic technical fretboard work and soulful individual breaks are also aplenty in adding the sophistication to discredit any naysayers. Slowing down a touch on ‘Possession’ but with heavy powering riffola and double bass drums being contrasted by Telli’s excellent vocals that alternate themselves between evil Schmier-esque song screaming and a soaring soulful chorus, the icing here has to be the exotic eastern melodic soloing that clearly shows Burning Witches’ ability to effectively meld different styles. Heaviest track on the album had to be ‘Maneater’ with its massive, chundering grooves as Telli evilly screamed ‘…it’s time for dinner…only one ingredient is missing….and you’re on the spot’ as the band joined in a multiple witch vocal shrieking that was both scary but sexy – excellent. Completed by some virtuoso soloing, tasty precision beats from Lala and a nice rhyming chorus of ‘..stay for dinner..’ there was more than just a temptation to the impressive feast on show here!