The fact that Switzerland’s Burning Witches is a mere three-years-old and his just barely releasing its sophomore record, speaks volumes about them being chosen as our Artist of the Month for November 2018. It’s not just our opinion though, Destruction/Panzer mastermind, Schmier is also a huge fan, and has helped the group record both of its albums to date. Of course, All Hallows Eve seemed perfectly suitable to Burning Witches anyway, but I digress.
The quintet’s sophomore effort, Hexenhammer releases on November 9 through Nuclear Blast Records. The album picks up where 2017’s eponymous debut record left off. As noted in my review of the new album, both records are packed with heavy riffs, chugging rhythms, and explosive vocals that would immediately appeal to fans of bands like Judas Priest and Iced Earth. Hexenhammer just cranks everything up another notch.
The band came together after guitarist Romana Kalkuhl began cultivating the idea for an all female, traditional metal assault. Bassist Jeanine Grob became the first to enlist, but it was the instant chemistry with vocalist Seraina Telli that cemented the group’s songwriting tandem. Drummer Lala Frischknecht came in to anchor the band’s crushing rhythm section, guitarist Sonia Nusselder (who also handles bass for Sepiroth and Ursinne), has now joined the fray as well.
Burning Witches self-titled debut was a necksnapper right from the aggressive bedlam of the album opener, “Black Widow.” From there it became a relentless juggernaut of adrenaline fueled, riff-centric, old school metal with a modern edge. Telli howls and growls like the lost lovechild of Rob Halford and Doro Pesch. In fact, Burning Witches masterfully closed out their debut album with a blistering cover of Judas Priest’s “Jawbreaker.”
Schmier’s comrade-in-arms, VO Pulver has also been involved with Burning Witches since their earliest recordings. Both returned with the band to the Little Creek Studio in Switzerland for the recording of the new disc. Much like the debut album, the first single, “Executed,” unleashes in a hail of wailing guitars and pummeling percussion.
As a fan of old school, traditional metal, I cannot help but love what Burning Witches brings to the cauldron, so to speak. They marry so many elements of the styles I grew up on, yet they manage to infuse it all with a fresh energy and enthusiasm. One can’t help but revel in memories of Dio, Accept, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, while also finding kindred connections to bands as diverse as Helloween, Huntress, and Grave Digger.
Certainly they are not reinventing any wheels here, but that is entirely the point. Howling and gritty vocals alongside buzzsaw riffing are at the heart of heavy metal, and these ladies serve that up in droves. For me, and I assume for most metalheads, the true test of a band is whether or not the music sticks with you, and track after track, Burning Witches new album, Hexenhammer does just that. In fact, the title track has been anchored in my cranium for weeks now, constantly resurfacing like a wasp nest hit with a baseball bat.
The bottom line is, Burning Witches are a fresh and crushing blast of horns up, necksnapping metal with massive melodies and memorable riffs. By every measure of what makes metal worthy of listening to, Hexenhammer hits the mark. Burning Witches are simply metal A.F., and we are proud to hail them as our November 2018 Artist of the Month!