Fast Rites: because sometimes brevity is fundamental.
In the earliest days of thrash, a great prophecy was foretold. It spoke of a day when the False had inherited the Earth and roamed freely, spewing forth vile blasphemies about thrash being “boomer metal” or that “Megadeth was always awful” and other such nonsense perpetuated by those holding no respect for the roots of the genre. As these False Legions flocked towards their Pitchfork shoegaze masquerading as black metal or washed-up, has-been “alternative” one-hit wonder bands whined about the “pussification” of a genre they know nothing about, a Great Resurrection has been brewing in the shadows.
The prophecy spoke of a band returning from the depths of cult obscurity to obliterate the forsaken Earth with the True Power Of Speed And Almighty Aggression in the Final Thrashmeggedon. With the return of Canada’s Witches Hammer (not “Witch’s,” this is a hammer made from two or more Witches), the long-awaited revelation may well be nigh. Originally releasing a handful of demos and EP’s between 1985 and 1987, Witches Hammer could feasibly be categorized as Canada’s Rigor Mortis, playing a hyper aggressive brand of thrash; albeit slicing a little more like Razor circa Executioner’s Song and Evil Invaders.
In their Second Coming, it’s though Witches Hammer died, went to hell, and return with a more visceral vengeance. The vocals sound gruffer, more entrenched in death: Rayy Crude no longer sounds like Sheepdog; in resurrected form he’s more like a fire breathing hellhound thirsting for unrepentant souls. And while the endearing aspect of the band – taking Dave Carlo’s Harley Davidson-esque purring palm mute tones and rubber-on-pavement pinch harmonic squeals into more extreme and outlandish realms – may no longer be the centerpiece focus of the band, the more modern production goes for the throat as a loud ‘n’ lean, mean ‘n’ full of speed barrage on the adrenal gland.
But holy hell, this is a Fast Rites, and this is supposed to be about SPEED, so let’s blaze through a few highlights of Damnation Is My Salvation. Not only does album opener “Across Azeroth” reintroduce the band with their more blackened vocal approach, it shows the band incorporating more death/thrashy elements to the musicality. The whiplash shifts between riffs that were such a distinct part of the band’s original sound are still, present, though they feel a bit more intentional than on the original material. The bass walking across the bridge on “Damnation Is My Salvation” feels like a callback to the band’s earlier utilization of the bass for melody as well as rhythm: all strings better be bringing their A-game if the oncoming apocalypse is to be brought to term. The eponymous “Witches Hammer,” one of the band’s earlier songs that pulled straight from the Show No Mercy handbook now sounds like “Die By The Sword” intravenously injected with a cocktail of super steroids and PCP. Another one of their re-recorded tracks, “Deadly Mantis,” begins as a pretty standard thrash number with some Slaughter influence before beginning to slide further toward death metal territories before concluding with an onslaught of divebombs and frantic guitarwork. The album’s closer, a new number titled “Nine Pillars,” best describes the band’s realization of their potential: death-laden thrash that turns on a dime, a collision of wailing dives of destruction, a venerable riff salad coated in a dressing of malicious intent.
So will Damnation Is My Salvation fulfill the prophecy and bring about the thrashmegeddon this weekend? While it’s probably not quite enough to bring about the True Second Coming Of Speed, it certainly is a soldier on the front lines. To those still fighting for battle-hardened thrash, Witches Hammer are the morale boost of a fallen hero who returns to battle with an even greater conviction and bloodlust.
Release date: April 25, 2020. Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions.