Beneath the Remains, May 2019: Bewitcher, Zig-Zags, and Kaleidobolt
Welcome to our new monthly column, where we’ll be highlighting a few select releases that might slip under your radar!
May is a stacked month for new metal releases. Between highly-anticipated albums from Amon Amarth, Haunt, Earth, Ringworm, Spirit Adrift, Saint Vitus, Death Angel, and, uh, Whitesnake, it’s easy for other great stuff to fall through the cracks. If you’re in the mood for some Satan schlock speed metal, LA meta-crossover thrash, or sauna psych, we have your poison.
I may not be a Satanist, but I’m definitely a HEAVY METAL AT THE SPEED OF SATAN-ist. That’s what Bewitcher advertise their racket as. Since scholars believe the devil rides out in a 1971 Hemicuda, that’s an accurate description — 425 horsepower will sure ruffle an angel’s wings. Engineered by Night Demon’s guitarist and mixed/mastered by Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind for maximum grime, Under the Witching Cross posits the eternal question, “What if Venom knew how to play their instruments?” Unholy Weaver of Shadows & Incantations, Infernal Magus of Nocturnal Alchemy, and Aris Wales know how to conjure sick riffs with the best of them. It’s not all just straight-ahead Motör-rumble, though. These Portland natives are versatile, touching on the blackened magick of Darkthrone, the whiplash-inducing mutant thrash of Toxic Holocaust, and even the Celtic-tinged trad metal of Slough Feg. Are they evil? Damn right they are.
On their previous album, these Los Angelenos showed that they like both their PB&J sandwiches and their punk with the crust on. The opening track of They’ll Never Take Us Alive makes their new mission statement clear: “Punk Fucking Metal.” They’ve embraced the denim-and-leather side of the sound, going back to the first class of thrash circa 1984. Sure, they missed the big retrothrash revival, but that makes this feel less hackneyed — it’s been a little while since someone took a run at Municipal Waste’s throne. Their ability to, ahem, zig-zag between both sides of the crossover line makes this stand out from the unwashed masses just content to ape Kill ‘Em All. They unleash wah-wah pedal and amplifier effects, kick out the gothabilly jams, and generally take an iconoclastic approach to what could be a rote nostalgia trip. Plus, you can mosh to it real easy.
Finns excel at freakout jams. I don’t know if it’s the one-two punch of strong alcohol and low temperatures, socialized healthcare reducing their stress levels, or their strong connection to Japan (nobody does freakout psych better than the Japanese). Whatever the reason, Kaleidobolt land an Unidentified Flying Object smack in the middle of the greatest 70s rock fest never curated. Tossing together Groundhogs-style heavy blues, Yes’s hyperkinetic prog, and Flower Travellin’ Band’s unhinged doom psych, this power trio keeps all those plates spinning in the air expertly. Somehow, they never lose track of the song at the core. Like the Harryhausen Hydra and grumpy Cyclopean rock on the album cover, they take recognizable things and make them delightfully weird.