Monday, October 29, 2012

Arkham Witch-Legions of the Deep

Metal On Metal Records

Before I get into this sophomore release from England's Arkham Witch I feel that I should give special props to Jowita Kaminska-Peruzzi for the excellent art work here. Yes, this is not Jowita's first attempt with a paint brush as she has worked with Exodus, Witchburner, Attacker, Forsaken, Meliah Rage, Manilla Road, Deceased, etc. Thing is Jowita is also the owner of Metal On Metal Records. I could be wrong, but there can't be that many record label owners that not only support their signings, as they should be obviously, but also supply the cover art for their release! At least I can't recall any. This cool Lovecraft-inspired painting aside it is the music that is the meat of the matter. My past experience with Arkham Witch didn't exactly leave me feeling inspired about this album (the band recorded  "For Metal" which was on Metal On Metal Records' "Compendium Of Metal Vol. 5"-review link below) as their supposed "doom metal meets NWOBHM" sound felt flat and lifeless. From the sound's offered up here then that compilation track must have been a throwaway cut. Album number two from Arkham Witch is nothing sort of sick. There were fleeting moments when I didn't care for I was hearing. It's only a rare moment here and there though. For example the track "Infernal Machine" falls into the trap of putting too much emphasis on the backing vocals and offering up to much straight heavy metal when it would have been better served as a trimmed up cut with more NWOBHM influences (Note: after getting some feedback on the review, which I always appreciate by the way, I was sent the following comment from owner Jowita: "for us it's "Infernal Machine" that immediately brings to mind Deep Switch - just listen to "Pig Feeder" - they can't hide which song inspired them here. ;)" and you know what? As I listen to "Pig Feeder" those Deep Switch flavors are really bold! Good call and spot on!). Other then maybe that cut it was rare for me to turn my head and say "Well, that doesn't quite jive". So, there were little to no times on the band's sophomore record when I wasn't fully engaged with the bands take on NWOBHM. For the record there is some doom to be found here, but a better description is in tall order here. Before I get to that though the promo gives it's fair share of bands that inspired Arkham Witch. So, without further wait (as I know you are dying to find out!) here are the bands that are said to have rocked the band into existence: "DEEP SWITCH, HELL, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, JUDAS PRIEST, PENTAGRAM, SAINT VITUS, MANILLA ROAD, CIRITH UNGOL and of course THE LAMP OF THOTH". The Deep Switch and Hell comparisons are probably fitting (especially on the above mentioned track now that I listen to it again) and so is the Judas Priest tag. The other bands though? Sure, I'd say your in the same ballpark, but Arkham Witch have their own flow going for them. The Lamp Of Thoth comparison comes from the fact that vocalist Simon and drummer Emily both played with said band. The only thing is I have never heard their other band so I can't commit to that comparison. For the record they are joined by bassist John Demaine and guitarist Aldo "Dodo" Delle Rose (both of which also handle backing vocals) and the four of them sound great all around. There are no real complaints about the four musicians although Simon does try to do a bit more then what is called for. That being said he never falls out of favor with me on the band's sophomore release and, as stated, the four musicians do a good job of making the music sound wicked and sinister without being completely offsetting. Going back to the influences once more (as it's the best way to try to describe the band's own take on heavy metal) and I'd dare to bet a dollar or two that the band has a "passing" familiarity with Kiss and Black Sabbath (see "Gods of Storm and Thunder" to hear what I'm getting at). Not that those are bad influences or anything. I'm just saying they might have heard a few tracks from both bands and possibly decided to combine them into a hard and heavy number. As we find our way back to this LP let us take a quick look and see why everything works so well for the band. Take a cut like "Kult of Kutulu" and just listen to it. I mean really sit down and listen to it. Not only is it straight, no filler, heavy metal (and good heavy metal at that), but it does pull in some subtle NWOBHM influences (in this case Deep Switch again) and makes the music work to their advantage. It doesn't sound dated or tired which is often times the one drawback I discover from these sort of "retro" inspired acts.. It's modern sounding without being modern metal (thank God for that!). Instead it's like some mad scientist took out a empty beaker in a laboratory and mixed together the better elements of traditional heavy, NWOBHM, power metal and yes, maybe just a pinch or two, some doom before letting it come to a furious boil. With the beaker threatening to boil over the mad doctor decides it's time to dump the contents into empty pods and let them mature into a muted metal band. Along the way somehow some punk attitude leaks into the pods  (see "We're from Keighley"), but somehow/someway they do grow into a solid 4-piece metal band. As this is only the band's second release I'm sure there is room to grow and improve. But, as this is ONLY the band's second release it must be said again that this is some SWEET stuff they've got going on and the future is there for the taking if they can keep hungry. With quality releases like this one Metal On Metal Records is slowly becoming one of my favorite record labels. Speaking of Metal On Metal Records be sure to head over to their site where they are streaming three songs off of the album. The cuts included are "At the Mountain of Madness" (a very cool number), "Infernal Machine" and "The Cloven Sea". You can find them all here: Metal on Metal Records website.

Review of  "Compendium Of Metal Vol. 5":

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