Monday, 1 June 2015

Last Orders - Witch Hunter Records


Firstly please excuse me for flagrantly stealing Mage's album title for the heading to this feature, but it's very apt. UK DIY label Witch Hunter Records is calling time on all music releasing activities and replacing it with the normality of family life and finances. Witch Hunter Records was started by Chris in 2010, going onto release music by bands that burned out bright like Bumsnogger, End Reign and Knifecrimes to bands that are still burning bright like Old Wounds, Iron Witch and Opium Lord. This feature focuses on the labels last four releases from Mage, Iron Witch, Siege Mentality and Iced Out respectively and is my way of paying tribute to the work that Chris has put over the years, in order to bring forward bands that he loves and to actively promote music that we've all loved.

Mage - Last Orders




Tracklist:

1. Dark Matter
2. The Fallen
3. Old Bones
4. Lux Mentis
5. Beyond
6. Violent Skies
7. One For The Road

It's only right to start with the band that influenced this feature's title. I last featured Midlands doom band Mage back in October 2013 when I reviewed their first full-length Black Sands. Coming about two-years on from the release of that album, they returned with second full-length Last Orders. This year has already been kind to the band, having shared the stage with the recently reformed Raging Speedhorn and a slot at Breaking Bands Festival. 

Mage have always been decidedly British in their approach, taking all the best bits from heavy metal, stoner, doom and speed metal and moulding them all into a cohesively loud unit. Dark Matter opens Last Orders with a crunchingly-fast intro and clean vocals that bring together old-school Metallica/Black Sabbath vibes. As the song-title suggests there’s a cosmic slant to the song but there’s no time to get caught up in lyrical content, as Mage up the pace and let rip towards the end of it. The thing that has always struck me most about Mage is that they know how to write. They don’t write songs that outstay their welcome and always strike the right balance between heaviness and melody. The Fallen contains some great instrumentation and vocals that show they mean business. They’re not showy, just true to themselves. The bass and overall pace of Old Bones has an air of Motorhead about it. Mage turn up the heat here and write a damn good rock song. Mid-way through it drops several stories and turns into a slow-burning sludge song that can’t help but bring a smile to your face. The most infectious song on Last Orders is Lux Mentis, for the sheer weight of it’s riffs alone. It’s majority is instrumental but for that reason it seems to sound even bigger! Beyond is Mage’s biggest slab of doom and the unmistakable whiff of stoner groove makes it hard to ignore. They scale things back slightly on Violent Skies but you’d never tell. Their brilliant musicianship keeps Last Orders on the rails. Loud is the best way to describe One For The Road and if it doesn’t make you grab a cold can to toast the album out, nothing will. 

Stream and purchase Last Orders digitally here:-



Iron Witch - The First Four Beers



Tracklist:


1. A .45 To Pay The Rent
2. Single Malt
3. Booze Blues
4. Jailhouse
5. The Cruelty Of Mankind
6. Gun Shot Residue
7. Exceed The Dose
8. Post Vegas Blues
9. The Last Of Nothing
10. Hangover Suicide
11. Death Was The Colour
12. Her Cheating Heart
13. Unhealthy Hard-On

The perfectly titled compilation gathers together the first four years if Liverpool sludge/doom band Iron Witch. It includes the songs from their "Witch Hunter Records" released debut EP Single Malt, their Post Vegas Blues (TDON Recs) and Hangover Suicide (Endtyme Records) 7"s and their side of the split 7" with The Atrocity Exhibit (Witch Hunter Records/Dead Chemists Records), plus an unreleased track. This a great release considering it's pretty hard to get their debut EP anywhere now and because their 7"s are in short supply, or even out-of-print themselves.

All of the tracks on The First Four Beers are in chronological order starting with the entire Single Malt EP. This EP was where Iron Witch’s EHG worshipping sound caught people’s ears. As such, they’re raw slabs of sludge/doom with a murky edge. I don’t recall ever properly listening to this EP, so it’s good to hear it here. The feedback-ridden and bass-heavy groove that has become a characteristic part of their sound is evident right from the off. I’m torn between going into a bit more detail about these songs and not, because I’m sure people are at least familiar with them if they’re reading this anyway. For me though, they transport right back to the times when I’ve seen them live at ‘Kin Hell Fest and the like. Their sheer power is best summed up on EP closer The Cruelty Of Mankind, which features utterly crazed screams and instrumentation that switches from uptempo crust-punk to squalid doom-breakdowns in no time. When I first started collecting vinyl, I picked up a number of records through TDON’s vinyl subscriptions and IW’s first 7” Post Vegas Blues, was one of them. That’s what comes next here. It’s immediately obvious that IW progressed in both song-writing and playing terms here. Gun Shot Residue contains one of the best riffs this side of New Orleans and still makes me smile now. I still struggle to understand how they even managed to fit songs as big as Exceed The Dose and Post Vegas Blues onto a 7” piece of wax, but they did and that’s all that matters. The Hangover Suicide 7” followed a mere six months after Post Vegas Blues and it was the first IW release that I reviewed I think. The Last Of Nothing continued IW’s expansive sound from that previous EP, while being a study in how to keep a listener fixated through the use of NOLA blues firepower.The angular and off-kilter signatures on the EP’s title-track seemed unexpected when played alongside it’s more straightforward predecessor, until the Southern-drawl was wrestled back and is carried through to Death Was The Colour. The compilation closes with Her Cheating Heart, which is almost certainly IW’s heaviest song to date and Unhealthy Hard-On, which appeared as a hidden track on original Single Malt Demo (according to Metal Archives). Unhealthy Hard-On ends The First Four Beers on a classic stoner-note and draws a line under the first four years of Iron Witch. Here’s to another four (or more!).

Stream it and download it for free or name-your-price here:-



Siege Mentality - Arrest Days EP




Tracklist:

1. Intro
2. Episode 2
3. Dying Right
4. See It There
5. Serious Threat Display
6. Mind Kicked Open
7. That Taste Again
8. Keep The Bracelets

Of course it's not just gnarly slow stuff that Witch Hunter has put out in the past. Chris has also released fast bands and Siege Mentality is keeping it in the family, as the band features members of Iron Witch. Arrest Days was released late last year and was recorded live at Bradford's infamous 1in12 club/studio. The band has gone onto play alongside Raging Speedhorn and Weedeater since the EP's release.

Siege Mentality play old-school raging hardcore in view of Negative Approach and the like, but still with a hint of the Witch thrown in. After the riffy Intro, Episode 2 is filled with screeching feedback, superbly heavy bass and snarling screams. Very few of their songs pass the two-minute mark, but that doesn’t mean they’re sloppy. Siege Mentality is made up of experienced musicians and it shows. the slow/fast dynamic of Dying Right, with it’s grooving uptempo riffs is perfect for a drunken mosh. See It There is more of a blasting beast, full of lurching and lumbering crust. They demonstrate subtle crossover on Serious Threat Display and Mind Kicked Open, but thankfully with no sign of the rap-like vocals that were notorious with that sub-genre! They’re true to their punk roots on That Taste Again, which starts with a killer drumbeat. Final slab Keep The Bracelets is their longest song and pulls together all that is good about Siege Mentality. The production on Arrest Days is warm and as it was recorded live, it’s the way that Siege Mentality should be heard.

Stream Arrest Days and grab it as a name-your-price download here:-



Iced Out - Man's Ruin EP




Tracklist:

1. For The Coven
2. Man's Ruin
3. Space Mountain

This final review has special poignancy, as Iced Out's latest EP Man's Ruin has the honour of being Witch Hunter's last release. Iced Out themselves have been quiet for a bit, but hopefully this means they're winding their way up to something bigger (a full-length hopefully). They're known for their no nonsense approach to abrasive, hardcore noise and I'm eager to here this.

That thing I said in the opening paragraph of this review about Iced Out being a no nonsense, abrasive hardcore band is all true. From furious screams to stomping rhythm percussion and even riffs chock full of Southern swagger, Iced Out mean business. For The Coven shows them at a more focused point in their song-writing and delivery and compared to their demo and previous 7”s, they’ve found a maturity without losing any of their anger. The EP title-track takes this sound a step further with added vocal reverb and general noise. The pace and make-up of the music always threatens to crescendo and break out into a massive wall of terrifying noise (at least that’s what I was waiting for), but Iced Out keep things controlled. They up the pace on Space Mountain, which is definitely not dedicated to the fun and frolics of the Disneyland ride! It’s heavier and darker, but without detracting from the momentum of the EP. The evolution in Iced Out’s sound is an interesting one and while they don’t seem as visceral as they have previously, a clearer and more focused approach is no band thing. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, but keep an eye out because we’ll hearing a lot more from them as time goes by.

Stream Man's Ruin here:-



All of Witch Hunter's releases can be streamed and purchased as pay-what-you-want downloads from their bandcamp page - https://witchhunterrecords.bandcamp.com/music.

You can pick up physical copies from the page too (but be warned, there isn't much left!).

Witch Hunter Records has been a constant in the UK DIY heavy music scene for as long as I've been writing this blog and I'm just glad that the label was brought to my attention. I hope Chris returns someday (hoping).

Witch Hunter Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/WitchHunterRecords
Mage Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Mageband
Iron Witch Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ironwitch1977
Siege Mentality Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/siegementalityuk
Iced Out Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Icedoutriffs

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