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Sunday Old School: Witchery

Black metal is surely one of metal's most important sub-genres. While a hefty chunk of the attention it's received has been for its image and legacy of death and arson, the music itself changed the way a lot of musicians felt towards their own style, most notably the hybrid between black metal and death metal, two styles previously thought incompatible, performed by such artists as Behemoth. It's not just death metal that felt the frostbitten grimness creeping in, thrash metal was touched too, particularly in the case of Sweden's own, Witchery.

Witchery was formed in 1997 in the southern Swedish city of Linköping, following a massive split by the black metal band Satanic Slaughter. The four departing members included vocalist Tony Kampner, guitarists Patrik Jensen & Richard Corpse and drummer Micke Pettersson, who all formed Witchery along with Mercyful Fate and future Arch Enemy bass player Sharlee D'Angelo. In January the following year, the band spent a week recording their first album, "Restless & Dead," a pun of the Accept album, "Restless and Wild." Though recorded in January, it wouldn't be until October 1998 that it hit the shelves through Necropolis Records. While it retained elements of the black metal sound that the bulk of members had performed with Satanic Slaughter, it was more or less a thrash metal album.

The record helped them gain a cult following among metal fans who had begun to miss the presence of thrash in a decade which had been dominated more by the alternative, death and black metal genres, as well as their tongue in cheek sense of humour which endeared them further to listeners. They quickly followed the release with a mini album, "Witchburner," which featured three original songs and four covers, putting their spin on songs by Judas Priest, Accept, W.A.S.P. and Black Sabbath. In October 1999, Witchery released their sophomore full length album, "Dead, Hot and Ready," the cover of which featured mascot Ben Wrangle, a play on the Swedish word, "benrangel," enjoying himself on a mortuary.

Once again, Witchery garnered acclaim from metal listeners, though not all reviewers were as warm as fans. They supported the album by heading out on tour with Norwegian black metal bands Emperor and Borknagar, though this coincided with the departure of Micke Pettersson, who was replaced by Martin Axenrot, who simultaneously joined Nifelheim and would later be recruited by Opeth and Bloodbath. His first recording with the band was their third album, "Symphony For the Devil," which was recorded in Malmö and released in February 2001. Despite the generally positive reaction to the record, Witchery were more or less placed on hiatus after, "Symphony..." as the members focused on other projects such as Bloodbath and The Haunted.

The group reconvened in 2004 to record another album, "Don't Fear the Reaper," once again at Berno Studios in Malmö, though it was sent to Danish producer Tue Madsen to be mixed at his Antfarm Studio. Despite being recorded in 2004, it wasn't released until February 2006, by which time Witchery had left Necropolis and signed with German label Century Media. It received a generally positive response from fans, though it was far from acclaimed and soon afterwards, the group was put on hold once again.

It would be another four years before Witchery made another return, this time with a new vocalist named Legion (Erik Hagstedt, formerly of Marduk.) They released their first and only album with Legion, entitled "Witchkrieg," in the Summer of 2010, which boasted numerous guest solos from such musicians as Slayer's Kerry King on the title track, Andy LaRoque of King Diamond, Hank Shermann of Mercyful Fate and Exodus members Gary Holt and Lee Altus. The album was seen as something of a return to form for Witchery, and received some of their best reviews for a long time.

As was seemingly becoming the norm, Witchery was once more pushed aside save for some live performances where they were fronted by former Dark Funeral vocalist Emperor Magus Caligula, but in 2016, the band returned to the studio to record their sixth album, "In His Infernal Majesty's Service," by which time they had replaced Caligula with Angus Norder, along with recovering from Axenrot's departure by recruiting drummer Christofer Barkensjö, who had previously performed with bands such as Grave, Constucdead and Kaamos. The album itself received something of a mixed response, with some fans claiming it felt uninspired and unoriginal while others claimed it was Satanic thrash metal at its purest. Whatever the case, Witchery are once again gearing up to head out on the road with a Summer tour of Sweden scheduled this year alongside The Haunted, where they will no doubt be showing their home nation fans why their name has lasted so long and been held up for twenty years.

Witchery - "Midnight at the Graveyard"

Witchery - "Fast as a Shark"

Witchery - "Call of the Coven"

Witchery - "The Storm"

Witchery - "Plague Rider"

Witchery - "Witchkrieg"

Witchery - "Nosferatu"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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1. saxon83 writes:

Kickass band that I've always loved. Highly recommended!

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