Out now on Nuclear Blast Records is Dance With the Devil from BURNING WITCHES. Formed in 2015 in Brugg, Switzerland by Romana Kalkuhl the band is made up of Jeanine Grob (bass), Lala Frischknecht (drums), with Kalkuhl and Sonia Nusselder (guitars) and their newest member at the vox lead is Laura Guldemond. As a fan, I know when front woman Seraina Telli left in 2019, there was definitely some grumbling from the fans. I think people were unsure that Guldemond could duplicate Telli’s style. While not as dark toned on the vocals, Guldemond steps up and brings a new dimension to the band, which I actually like just as well.
In 2018 I reviewed their last album Hexenhammer, and did not like it as much as their debut. However, the title track is still an earworm in my brain on a regular basis. So what is this new effort like? Well again, as seems to be the trend these days, Dance With the Devil begins with a 57-second intro called “The Incantation”. Perhaps a hex to mesmerize one for a blast to the senses next with “Lucid Nightmare”? Full of great guitar and double bass kicks, it’s an experiential horror story. Just excellent. The title track “Dance With the Devil” has that ‘80’s rock feel to it and to me, along the RATT line, but could be a bit more creative. It’s not my favorite.
“Wings Of Steel” is enchanting in that it’s a hard driving tune, which is a rollercoaster ride of slow and quick tempos, which makes it seem longer than it is. I would have loved seeing this one hauling butt from the start with the doors coming off the hinges, straight down into Hell’s Gate. “Six Feet Underground” is a better paced bit of mental insanity with several nice guitar solos. Guldemond’s radiantly psychotic vocals definitely make this cut an excellent piece of work (there’s a cool video to accompany this one as well).
“Black Magic” comes in at #6(66?) and gives us a spellbinding ballad, with some tasty guitar and dark team harmony. Of course we all know we can trust anything the government, religion and society tells us and we should gladly “drown our souls” in what they preach. This “Sea of Lies” might be a stark reminder to not walk in lock step too often.“The Sisters of Fate” brings back a taste of the old school ‘80’s \m/etal sound again, eerily comparable to early MOTLEY CRUE. Just a nice jam.
Continuing with their signature sound is “Necronomicon”, which is my favorite on the album. I just loved this song as it appears to be based on H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional grimoire of the same name. The mood expressed around this ghastly account of the “Old Ones”, “an image of the law of the dead”, is brilliantly expressed with a blending of dark \m/etal tuning and Guldemond’s vocal abilities. This brings an ominous spiritual impression. If you want sweet dreams at bedtime, I think I’d pick a different tune.
“The Final Flight” and “The Threefold Return” bring us near the end of this unearthly journey into the dark forest of the BURNING WITCHES. Quite the unexpected ending is the MANOWAR cover “Battle Hymn” featuring Ross the Boss & Mike LePond. I think the ladies do it 10x better, actually. One thing the WITCHES do well are covers. I must admit they have excellent taste in \m/etal bands and are paying tribute to their influential icons, which would be pretty cool in itself. Dance With The Devil shows a group that has stepped it up a notch and I think they are going in a great direction. Salude’.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Necronomicon”, “Lucid Nightmare”, “Six Feet Underground”, “The Sisters of Fate”
-MARK “\M/ETAL \M/ESSIAH” EHRLICH