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Metal Witch – Tales From The Underground

Metal Witch
Tales From The Underground
by Devin C. Baker at 12 February 2017, 8:23 PM

Promotional materials for German classic metallers METAL WITCH make much of their having been around since 1985—heavy metal pioneers, you might say. In that 32 years, however, they've released but two full-lengths, a demo and a split; and the first of those didn't show up until 2002. I'm all for applauding longevity, but do we give career credit for a fifteen-plus year gestation period with no output? At any rate, it is now that we come to their latest, their second full-length, “Tales From The Underground.”

Within moments of pressing it is apparent what all the hubbub was about in 1985. This is classic Heavy Metal with nary a diversion from the mid-eighties Euro-Metal template - four-on-the-floor tempos interspersed with the odd boogie or gallop, NWOBHM-inspired twin guitars, a touch of that early SCORPIONS sexy danger. Sounds good, right? Well, yes it does. It doesn't sound innovative or particularly artful in any way, but it's an ably presented collection of very familiar throwback Metal. The chief drawback here is Kay Rogowski's vocals. While at first brush on can make an easy Udo Dirkschneider comparison, he lack's Udo's swing and swagger. He barks and gargles melodically enough, but the “roughness” too often comes across as a bit “goblin-y”. Then there is also the matter of the super-thick German accent. Frankly, it all comes across like a sketch comedian's “Heavy Metal singer” character.

Given enough listens to Rogowski's voice to get used to it, this record musically dots every “i” and crosses all the “t”s. Opener “Cheers To The Underground” sings the praises of those who toil to keep underground Metal going, careening along atop the same kind of menacing, surf-inspired riff that DEAD KENNEDYS used to use so successfully. “God Save The Heroes” also directly exults in the greatness of Metal, employing a guitar figure that's curiously similar to the opening of “Seek & Destroy” grafted onto a four-square Rock beat. More love for the louder-faster-harder comes via “Heavy And Roll” with its amped up Chuck Berry foundation and tasty guitar solo. “Stay True” and “The Heart Of England” both feature crunchy, memorable riffs that any pre-Thrash hesher would love. They close the proceedings out with a good-old Steve Harris gallop on “Weapons Of The Night”, thus sealing their NWOBHM bona fides.

“Flute Of Shame” is…really just kind of silly.

This album is chock-full of good stuff, tons of energy and character. The mix is pretty righteous, with crunchy, chewy guitars front and centre. By the fourth or fifth listen, Kay's voice had taken on a sort of weirdly earnest charm - I suppose I acquired the taste. Overall, there's really not a damn thing WRONG with “Tales From The Underground”, but unfortunately there's not enough to set it apart. When a group strongly identifies with a particular genre and all the trappings that come therewith, there has to be a little extra hot sauce to set it apart. I need a compelling reason to listen to this record, as opposed to, say, ACCEPT, THE SCORPIONS or GRAVE DIGGER, etc., etc. Though, as I've said, METAL WITCH have a whole lot of the right stuff in all the right places, and I'm ultimately unconvinced that this album has the staying power its makers obviously have.  For sure, there are some standout, memorable passages and an over-arching feel to the whole thing that scratches that throwback itch.  Who knows, they might not even have recorded their best record yet - I just don't know if I have ten or fifteen years to find out.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 5
Memorability: 6
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. Cheers To The Underground
  2. Flute Of Shame
  3. God Save The Heroes
  4. Heavy And Roll
  5. Standing In My Way
  6. Stay True
  7. Still Going Strong
  8. The Heart Of England
  9. The Man Who Shouldn't Live
  10. Weapons Of The Night
Lineup:
Kay Rogowski – Vocals
Lorenz Hoppe – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Ingo Hinz – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Rüdiger Voigt – Drums, Backing Vocals
Thorsten Meyer – Bass, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Iron Shield Records
     


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