Traditional heavy metal • Switzerland

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Burning Witches is a Swiss heavy metal act with power and extreme metal influences. The group released their self-titled debut album in 2017.

- Written by 666sharon666, September 2017.
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Burning Witches
Traditional heavy metal 2017



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Burning Witches
Traditional heavy metal 2016

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Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Though she already had two albums under her belt with the band Atlas & Axis, Swiss guitarist Romana Kalkuhl still had a dream to fulfil: to be a part of an all female heavy metal band. To that end, Burning Witches were founded in 2015 and have now released their 2017 self-titled debut album. For me it's gone somewhat under the radar since originally dropping in May, but I'm sure glad to have picked up on it now, since what we have here may just be 2017's best hidden gem of traditional heavy metal. The album was co-produced by Schmier of thrash metal band Destruction fame, who also provides some additional vocals on the track Metal Demons.

The sound heard on the album speaks volumes toward what kind of bands have influenced the musicians in Burning Witches. If the Judas Priest cover of Jawbreaker closing the album wasn't a big enough clue, then it's easy to hear the influence of Judas Priest in the sound of the band's original songs too. Though Jawbreaker comes from Defenders of the Faith (1984), I find myself thinking more toward Painkiller (1990) era of Judas Priest when listening to this album. For Judas Priest Painkiller has this really 'next level' feel about it. It was harder and faster than much of what they'd done before. Although this is Burning Witches debut record and the passage of time does make it considerably less revolutionary in 2017 than Painkiller was in 1990, the vibe it gives off is actually quite similar: there's definitely something extra here compared to what the typical heavy metal album in 2017 has. Something that gives Burning Witches a lot more bite.

In many ways the record seems written with a very classic feel to it, but in others its really quite modern, making use of strong production values to make the band's riffs hit as hard as possible and also featuring a pretty hefty dose of power metal, meaning the heaviest end of the genre that brings mind to German bands such as Grave Digger and Rebellion, as well as a few extreme metal elements via the use of some harsh vocals, found most prominently in tracks such as Bloody Rose and The Dark Companion, the latter of which, though it starts soft, is otherwise full of classic heavy metal galloping riffs.

The first two songs on the album do a good job of showcasing how well Burning Witches blend both heavy metal and power metal on the album. The opener Black Widow leans more on power metal, featuring speedy riffs but played in a decidedly aggressive manner, with a rawer sound than power metal is typically known for having. Then there band serves up their self-titled song Burning Witches, which is much more mid-paced but still heavy. This is where the harsh vocals first appear from singer Seraina Telli, but also some more high registered parts interlaced with them, which were also used in the opening scream of Black Widow. There are definitely times during the record where it sounds like Telli is channelling her inner Halford, with Black Widow especially coming across like it wouldn't have been out of place on Painkiller.

The song-writing continues to prove consistent across the album both in terms of quality and style. Burning Witches continually gives the impression that they're not messing around. There's no elongation of any songs (the longest is a little under five and half minutes), no needless progressive or symphonic elements and no bullshit. If the mission was to produce arse-kicking songs, then Burning Witches can consider themselves victorious. There's a lone ballad, Save Me, placed right in the middle of the release (which you can hear an acoustic version of if you have the Japanese release of the album), but even though ballads can often disrupt the flow of heavy and power metal albums that isn't the case here. It's actually just as good as anything else the band has included. Everything about the album says that it's heavy/power metal played with conviction and passion. It's real hard not to be won over by that.

That's what makes it easy to invest many repeat listens in it without getting tired of it. The songs are memorable, especially opener Black Widow, self-titled anthem Burning Witches, extreme edged Bloody Rose, speedy Creatures of the Night, and the playing right into the witch theme We Eat Your Children. All the songs are strong though; there are no low points here. The Jawbreaker cover is also pretty good too; Burning Witches certainly haven't disgraced themselves there. It's just an excellent debut in every aspect.


Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Classic heavy metal is not a genre I've listened to much in recent years, outside of personal favorites like the legendary Iron Maiden and the last three releases from Dark Forest, but I can still enjoy new releases in the genre from time to time. The latest such release to win me over is the self-titled debut from Swiss all female band Burning Witches. I had listened to a couple songs earlier in the year and was already impressed, but never got around to giving the album a full listen until recently, and I have to say, I'm very glad I did, because this is some enjoyable classic heavy metal, with quite a bit of power metal mixed in, as well as occasional melodic death metal influences.

Stylistically, Burning Witches play a very aggressive, fairly old-school brand of heavy metal for the most part. One can certainly notice similarities to the likes of Judas Priest at times, with many tracks having some rather raw sounding and heavy riffs, and musically I'd say the album is very high energy throughout. There's a nice mix of speedy and mid tempo tracks on the album, and as mentioned above, I hear some power metal elements at times, though this mostly falls on the rougher side of the genre, with some of the riffs reminding me of the likes of Grave Digger and Primal Fear. There are also places where I detect some melodic death metal elements, with some of the guitar work having a more modern and more extreme sound at times, while there are also some occasional harsh vocals, though these are mostly used in quick bursts and are mixed in with clean vocals. I also notice a fairly dark tone to the music on many of the tracks, especially on some of the slower songs, and this helps add extra flavor to the music. Regardless of what kind of song the band is playing, the instrumental work is quite solid throughout, with some very good riffs on every track as well as some nice solo work, and the production is top notch as well.

Vocally, the album is also very strong, with lead vocalist. Seraina Tell proving herself to be a very capable singer. I had actually heard her before with melodic metal band Rizon, but she sounds so different here at times, I never even noticed it was her until I looked it up. I'd say she's definitely improved over the years, though, as her performance here is both much smoother and much more varied than what I remember hearing from her in the past. When she sings normally, she has a very deep and powerful, yet also very smooth voice that especially shines during the choruses and softer moments, though she tends to be pretty animated at times, occasionally mixing in some death growls and classic heavy metal wails. The former are quite good, while the latter took some time for me to get used to, but are done decently enough.

An album can't be considered fully enjoyable if the songs are no good, but thankfully that isn't the case with Burning Witches. Right away, the band brings it with opening track “Black Widow”, a speedy track with some heavy riffs and some very animated screams from Seraina during the verses, though she uses her normal voice during the chorus to bring some melody into the song, and does a great job of it. The guitar solo in the second half is very good, and overall it's an explosive, very fun track that serves as a pretty good indication of what to expect from the album. Next is the self-titled track, another fairly up tempo track with some more classic heavy metal riffs and more slightly over the top vocals, though once again, the chorus is more melodic and quite catchy. There's a slightly sinister tone to the guitar throughout the track, and this carries on throughout much of the album.

Also on the speedier side, “Dark Companion” is the first track on the album where death growls appear, and it has very aggressive riffs, which certainly give a melodic death metal feel, and the mix of clean and harsh vocals is done very nicely, making it an immediately engaging track, and certainly one of the standouts on the album. The melodic death metal riffing continues on “Metal Demons”, another speedy track, though the vocals are clean throughout that track, and the chorus is very melodic and quite catchy. The most traditional power metal track on the album is “Creatures of the Night”, which has slower moments during the verses where the riffs give it more of a heavy metal feel, but the chorus is very speedy and sounds like classic German power metal, while the vocals there are very clear and melodic, and the guitar work is generally very melodic throughout, aside from a couple points. Another speedier track is “Deathlist”, the last of the original tracks, here, and it's another fun track, with a mix of very heavy verses, a melodic chorues, and some nice melodic guitar work at times, and a very nice extended guitar solo in the second half.

On the slower side of things, “Bloody Rose” a hard hitting track, with a very dark tone to the guitar work, and the vocals are very deep and powerful on that track, with one particular repeated phrase coming across as very intense, though the chorus is still nice and melodic, as usual. One song that took me a while to open up to is “We Eat Your Children”, which aside from having an off putting name, also opens with some really over the top wails that initially annoyed me, though I've grown used to them by now. Otherwise, it's a slow and heavy track, with some very punishing riffs, and another pretty solid chorus. It's probably my least favorite song here, but it's still pretty enjoyable. In a similar vein is “Creator of Hell”, probably the slowest out of the heavier songs here, and it has some very mean sounding riffs, as well as some very intense vocals, and the music has a very dark and sinister tone throughout. It's a quality track overall, with a very strong chorus. Lastly, we have “Save Me”, the one ballad on the album. It's a very nice track, with some nice melodic guitar work throughout, that helps set the mood, while Seraina uses her softest vocals of the album during the opening verse, before opening up more as the song goes on, and she gives by far her most powerful and emotional performance of the album on this track, making it an obvious standout. There's also a very memorable guitar solo in the second half, and overall it's definitely one of my favorites on the album.

For the closing track, the band decided to include a cover of the classic Judas Priest track “Jawbreaker”, which proves to be a great fit for their sound. Their version is very faithful to the original, with everything from the main riff to the chorus being instantly recognizable, though I think I actually prefer Seraina's smoother vocals, as well the much more polished production. It's definitely a very strong cover, that doesn't lose any of the intensity of the original.

Overall, Burning Witches is a very strong debut from the Swiss all female band, with a great mix of classic heavy metal and power metal, as well as occasional flashes of melodic death metal. It's a very heavy album, with one exception, and it features strong performances all around, as well some consistently good songwriting. Fans of classic heavy metal are especially recommended to check this out, while power metal fans should also find much of it to be to their liking. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more from the band in the future.


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