Witchhammer - 1487 - 2005 - Dazed & Confused Records
1. Intro 2. Transylvania 3. Kill All in Sight 4. Burning Court 5. The Whore of Babylon 6. Enola Gay 7. Hallow's Eve 8. My Execution 9. By This Axe I Rule 10. Curiosity About Death
Over the past decade, Norway has done much to move beyond the stereotypes that overshadowed their metal scene for much of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Nowadays, young bands are springing up with challenging new styles, and even some of the older acts who at one time perpetuated the stereotypes have evolved beyond their roots.
Conversely, Witchhammer come at us from the total opposite direction with their bone fide blast from the past reissue of ‘1487’. Originally released on vinyl in 1990, it is the band’s only long-player to date, despite their original formation all the way back in 1985. Repackaged for the post-millennium revival of traditional heavy metal, ‘1487’ features a new layout and format, but the content remains the same as it was 17 years ago.
Based upon the bloodthirsty ethos of the Malleus Maleficarum, ‘1487’ is stylistically similar to Helloween’s ‘Walls of Jericho’ (albeit five years afterwards): a slightly tinny affair of speeding, palm-muted guitars, galloping drums, strong bass, a cheesy intro track, and unpolished lead vocals with a propensity for quasi-falsetto exclamations. Essentially—the better half of metal that the late 80’s had to offer. And in fact, Per Pettersen does at times sound almost exactly like the playful Kai Hansen on ‘Walls of Jericho’, with perhaps with a bit of ‘Follow the Blind’-era Hansi Kürsch tossed in.
That said, ‘1487’ is altogether too rooted in thrash and speed metal to follow Helloween, Gamma Ray, or Blind Guardian into true power metal territory. These songs chug along as often as they speed and Per’s style of singing isn’t as melodious as most power metal, even in its early incarnation.
While its very age makes ‘1487’ something of a ‘hidden gem’, the songwriting is consistent enough to make its own case for that distinction. ‘1487’s solos and leads are often rather simple in composition, but they still build effectively on the band’s strong rhythmic foundation and the raucous spirit of the old school. The lyrics, too, are sophomoric at best, but their enthused delivery and gang-vocal support evoke the character of the era without falling prey too often to its weaknesses. ‘1487’ isn’t the most mandatory of all old-school releases, but it is still one of Norway’s more interesting early exports, and with the band evidently writing new material, aficionados of the era should consider catching up with Witchhammer.
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