Aussie’s cross Sabbath with NWOBHM and it all sounds right

A couple of relevant pieces of information might be required before working out how a band making their debut can sound quite this fully formed.

First Witchskull (and the award for 2016’s most metal name is secured, boys don’t worry!) are not some fresh faced kids making their way, blinking innocently into the light with dreams of taking over the world. Instead the trio feature Joel Green drummer with Australian thrash lords, Armoured Angel.

Even more crucial is this: the troops he recruited for this new endeavour were his old school friends Marcus De Pasquale (guitar) and bass player Tony McMahon, which means there was a chemistry already there and that comes over in the eight tracks that make up “The Vast Electric Dark” more than anything.

The trio wanted to explore their love for NWOBHM and Sabbath. Which is cool, but we know what you’re thinking because we did too:  “Fair enough, but then so do a lot of bands.” Good point.

What makes Witchskull different – and better – than the slew of bands that think they can write doom riffs all over the world, is that not only can Witchskull actually do it, but also they mix it with a real metal gallop.

Take the title track for starters. It ushers itself in on the type of groove that Lemmy would approve of, quickly morphs into something that could be on the first Iron Maiden record and also has a Sabbathy occult air and fuzzy guitar solo. Oh and did we mention they do this in less than four minutes? No? Well, they do.

See, now you care, right?

And so you should too, because this is rather good. In fairness the other seven don’t stray too much further from the template. Sure “Temple Of Ly’s” might have a slightly more monolithic thing going on, but it still wants to get its horns up. “Pan’s Daughter” calmly and methodically crushes home, as Green witters about Countesses of the silver skies and Priestesses of another time, but just because it can it locks itself into a metal riff too.

“Swim The Abyss” is a lovingly constructed thumper of a thing featuring the brilliant line of “just like mother, a witch in disguise….”. “Raise The Dead” with its gargantuan bass line is probably the best cut on the record and any track that starts with “go tell the others that Father has died” really doesn’t have far to go in the bleak stakes.

“Worlds Away” is probably the heaviest, fastest and most heavy metal infused thing here – and if nothing else convinces that this is not a doom rock band, then surely this will, but then, they end things with “Cassandra’s Curse” which is the most doomy thing they’ve got in their arsenal, so maybe we just accept Witchskull are ace whatever they do.

Originally released last year in a boutique label in their native Aus, this is now coming out on Ripple and getting the worldwide treatment it deserves, because what could have been generic doom by numbers is anything but.

Rating 8.5/10

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