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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Seven Witches

Xiled To Infinity And One

Review by Mike Korn

There's a lot of hot air being expelled by bands claiming they are "true" heavy metal these days. In most cases, hot air is all that it is. The majority of "true" metal bands wind up pumping out shiny, clean "happy" metal in the tradition of Helloween and Hammerfall or overblown operatic stuff like Rhapsody. Few indeed are the bands that can legitimately claim to evoke the same atmosphere that made Judas Priest, Accept, Saxon and Angel Witch so great. Seven Witches is such a band. Instead of embellishing everything with tons of choirs, keyboards, guitar effects and the like, they serve up meat and potatoes heavy metal that is as satisfying and unpretentious as a cold beer and a hot dog at a baseball game. The songs are all 5 minutes or less and don't attempt to break any records for most chords and time changes in a song. The pace is medium to moderately fast, with enough energy to get your head banging but not remove it from your neck.

It's a subtle yet simple approach. Guitarist Jack Frost, who has played in Savatage and Metalium amongst other bands, is a big proponent of the "less is more" school of guitar playing, which suits me just fine. Singer Wade Black (ex-Crimson Glory) doesn't try to blow your eardrums out with high-pitched screaming all the time but goes for a more smoldering, groove-based approach. The more you listen to Seven Witches, the more you can pick up all the clever nuances in his singing and marvel at some very catchy vocal lines. An easy comparison would be Ripper Owens, but he doesn't lay the screaming on quite as thick as Ripper. Bass and drums are also rock solid here and I've since learned that bass duties for the band will now be provided by legendary Joey Vera, who almost wound up replacing Cliff Burton in Metallica. That change should do the band nothing but good.

Individual songs don't tend to stand out a lot here, but taken as a whole, "Xiled To Infinity and One" is extremely strong and flows well. It's "true" metal for real and many power metal pretenders are encouraged to pick this one up to see what the real deal is all about!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Metal Tyrant
With a title like that, you know this won't be the latest Limp Bizkit clone. This is almost painfully traditional heavy metal in the grand tradition, sounding a lot like "Hell Bent"/"British Steel" Judas Priest, with simple but catchy chugging guitar chords and lots of NWOBHM attitude.
Incubus
The pace picks up here for a speedy burst of metal mayhem. It's not quite thrash, it boasts good vocals and a solid axe attack.
Salvation
You can detect an almost R&B influence on Wade Black's vocals here and the song has that indefinable funky but heavy aura that characterized a lot of early 80's heavy metal.
Xiled to Infinity And One
The title track starts as a gentle ballad rather too reminiscent of old Priest tracks like "Beyond the Realms of Death" and "Evening Star", then it heavies up, goes into a very catchy chorus and returns to the original feel. A good thing about this song is that they don't drag it out into some 8 or 9-minute epic.
Warmth of Winter
This track is a little bit different because it has an almost nu-metal feel to it, and even reminded me somewhat of Sevendust. It's got a real bouncing heavy mid-paced riff. Black's vocal heroics really make the song.
Anger's Door
This is crunchy mid-paced metal that sticks in your brain. The approach, if not the actual riffs, is a lot like Priest on "Devil's Child".

Eyes of An Angel
This is an absolutely outstanding heavy metal track and by far the best song on the album. The twisting guitar lick that typifies the track is just killer, and the piece features enough melody and aggression for a whole album. Listen to the chorus on this baby and try to forget it. Wade Black is awesome! This is just an amazing pure heavy metal track, right up there with the best of Maiden, Priest - you name it.
Pain
This is pretty heavy and hard-hitting stuff, with a "rolling" feel to the verse. On this one, Black uses a bit of a higher register and again shows some of that R&B feel to his singing. Brian Craig really slaps the drum kit around big time.
The Burning
Now this I can't figure out. It's exactly the same song as "Incubus" but with different lyrics and vocals by Savatage's Jon Oliva. You'd think these guys would have enough material to avoid playing the same song twice! Actually, I prefer this to "Incubus", and Jon's raspy vocals actually seem to fit the song better than Wade's.

See You In Hell
A butt-kicking high-energy cover of the tune by the sadly forgotten Grim Reaper, this is a very, very catchy track. Actually better than the original, it is a fine capper to an album of 100% true heavy metal.

 
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