One of the best things about working with the guys at Moshville Times is that they furnish me with an ample spade with which to uncover some real gems from the metal underground that I might otherwise miss. Witches Funeral by Swedish blackened thrashers Nekrokraft is one such gem.
The record is the band’s second release following 2016’s mini-album Will O’ Wisp and comprises a chronological compilation of their demos over the last five years with a couple of covers thrown in for good measure. Its release represents somewhat of a filler ahead of the band’s first full length LP, Servants, due out in the Spring. However, even after one listen, it is clear that this is so much more than just a stop-gap.
The ten short and punchy tracks capture the essence of the band but most interestingly highlight their evolution from raw black thrashers on first track “Burning Ov”, complete with fairly awful production (which admittedly adds to the feel but does little to deliver the songmanship) through to the final two previously unreleased tracks “They Swim, They Must Hang” and “Wrath of the Heavens”. Both of these sound far more polished and accentuate the considerable musicianship and craft that the band have developed over their relatively short career.
All the classic elements are present in abundance on this release from twin melodic guitar attacks, chugging, aggressive riffs, tempo changes and breakdowns, all carried by a wall of incendiary drumming. But what elevates the record and really highlights the band’s rather unique style is where they twist and augment this winning formula. Principle of which is their infusion of more black and folky elements, lending many of the songs a real epic and anthemic quality. Vocalist Angus’s variation of styles from primeval black metal screams to guttural deathly growls, punctuated by some Tom G. Warrior inspired grunts, are a breath of fresh air as is drummer Simon’s love affair with the ride cymbal. All these elements combined to great effect throughout and highlight an ambition and maturity rare in such a young band.
Standouts include the excellent title track, the catchy intro riff of which reminds the listener of At The Gates, to new track “They Swim, They Must Hang” which possesses a monolithic riff mid-way which will have the most leaden of sorceresses bouncing in their drowning chairs. Covers of the Bathory classic “Satan My Master” and Slayer’s “Angel of Death” sit well with the band’s own work, particularly the latter where Angus’s disarming vocals provide a welcome spin to this much loved legendary track.
For fans of Nekrokraft, Witches Funeral will provide a nice summary of their promising career to date and will whet appetites nicely for the bands forthcoming full length debut. On the evidence here, and with a fair wind, the band should enjoy a long and fruitful journey… check them out.
Witches Funeral is released 19 January on The Sign Records