Four albums into their career, British underground doom lords Witchsorrow are showing no signs of letting up on what seems like a mission to crush our souls into a fine powder with their own brand of heavy. Following on from 2015’s fine “No Light, Only Fire”, they set themselves a new high benchmark so latest album, “Hexenhammer” is eagerly awaited.
Beginning with a brief instrumental in the form of “Maleficus”, it hits me that Witchsorrow definitely have their own unique sound. Cavernous and classically doomy, this feels like a kneel-at-the-altar-and-prepare-yourself moment as title track “Hexenhammer” with its’ thick riffage roars into life. Nick Ruskell’s vocals maintain an edge that’s part scorn and part condemnation, leading us into a world of fire and torment. There’s a nice urgency and punch to the riffs as they lurch and swing in a very With The Dead manner. Those familiar with the band will know that each album has its’ own downright headbanger track; their “Paranoid” if you will, and this one is no different except for the fact that “The Devil’s Throne” could be one of the band’s finest such moments. Covered in a Black Sabbath inspired chug and held aloft by the punishing rhythm section of Emily Ruskell and David Wilbraham, it races along in a manner that would make the most seasoned metalhead stand up and take notice.
Very early on it’s noticeable how rich and deep their sound has become. Vocally, there’s more power which pushes a little harder on “Demons Of The Mind” after a feedback drenched introduction. There’s an obvious build to the album that, for me reaches its’ zenith on “Eternal”; a dark, revved up slab of heavy metal, stalking and edgy. Full of Dio era Sabbath styled riffs with plenty of heft, this is simply pure magic. The directional shift mid track ups the pace as Wilbraham’s drum kit gets a good old fashioned thrashing.
The band steer into a more Saint Vitus styled direction on “The Parish”. Moody and a little more restrained, it lopes along in a manner that has a Dave Chandler sort of groove that buzzes away. A very tidy guitar solo punctuates the bellowing bass that has formed a dark backdrop throughout. The chiming resonance at the beginning of closing track “Like Sisyphus” sets up what feels will be a grand finale. A sort of “Iron Man” strut delivered with a Lee Dorrian sounding sneer puts the final stamp on an album that, at around 42 minutes is beautifully weighted.
Witchsorrow have again delivered a delightfully harrowing statement that wallows in a world of enflamed torment. Sub genres aside “Hexenhammer” is simply a first class piece of heavy metal. Their songwriting has always been there but the platform upon which those words are delivered has taken an almighty step forward. A power trio in the truest sense, this is essential listening.
(9/10 Johnny Zed)