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Burning Witches - "The Witch Of The North" (CD)

Burning Witches - "The Witch Of The North" CD cover image

"The Witch Of The North" track listing:

1. Winter's Wrath
2. The Witch of the North
3. Tainted Ritual
4. We Stand as One
5. Flight of the Valkyries
6. The Circle of Five
7. Lady of the Woods
8. Thrall
9. Omen
10. Nine Worlds
11. For Eternity
12. Dragon's Dream
13. Eternal Frost
14. Hall of the Mountain King

Reviewed by on August 2, 2021

"despite releasing their previous album only a year ago, Burning Witches has matured a little bit when it comes to their sound."

It's amazing to think that Swiss quintet Burning Witches released their self-titled debut in 2017. Only four years later and they're now on their fourth album, "The Witch Of The North." It's been a fascinating rise for the group, particularly after parting company with vocalist Seraina Telli following the release of their stellar sophomore album, "Hexenhammer" and bringing in her more than capable replacement Laura Guldemond. "The Witch Of The North" also sees a change in personnel, with new guitarist Larissa Ernst making her Burning Witches debut, taking the place of Sonia Anubis, who left to co-found Crypta. So how does this new lineup sound together? Read on MacDuff...

Kicking off with the short, almost instrumental intro "Winter's Wrath," which leads nicely into the title track, it doesn't take long to realise that despite releasing their previous album only a year ago, Burning Witches has matured a little bit when it comes to their sound. While the band's past catalogue can be best be described as a "pure heavy metal" style, "The Witch Of The North" incorporates thrash and even Viking influences, particularly in the first half of the record, which appropriately given the title and artwork, feels very cold. "Tainted Ritual" and "We Stand As One" both continue the Nordic vibe of the title song, which also carries over into "Flight Of The Valkyries," though only in the beginning, as it ultimately becomes a mix between a power ballad and a thrash anthem.

Longtime fans of Burning Witches need not be put off by these new sounds they're hearing, however, as "The Circle Of Five," "Thrall" and "Dragon's Dream" offers plenty of their signature sound to assure fans that they've not changed completely. There's some really good, energetic metal on this album, which sees Burning Witches fit better in with classic Iced Earth than say, Saxon as they have done before. Continuing the tradition which began with their cover of Judas Priest's "Jawbreaker," the album also boasts an excellent cover track, this time coming in the form of the Savatage staple, "Hall Of The Mountain King."

Though it's a very solid album, there are a few things that work against it a little, most notably the length. Burning Witches has always delivered value for money and packed plenty of material into each album, but at just over an hour, making this their longest album yet, "The Witch Of The North" does feel a bit much. While there are also some stand out tracks on the record itself, there aren't any which grab the listener like previous songs such as "Black Widow" and "Hexenhammer" have been able to do. Ultimately, this is an album that probably won't become a fan favourite, but it'll go down as a solid part of their catalogue, a la AC/DC's "Powerage" or Judas Priest's "Sin After Sin."

Overall, despite its new sounds, "The Witch Of The North" won't alienate any longtime fans and it's still strong enough to attract new ones. The album is not a disappointment by any means, but maybe not quite up to scratch with previous releases. It's a very good album with plenty to offer and few holes, none of which are glaring, but fans may be hoping for that extra bite when the next album comes around.

Highs: "The Circle Of Five," "Thrall" and "Dragon's Dream", ventures into new territory, superb guitar work

Lows: The instrumental passages feel a little unnecessary, no real "staples" to be found

Bottom line: A good album from one of heavy metal's most exciting bands, though it won't go down as their best. It does however feel like the stepping stone to something big.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)