The German Black Thrash underground is a small and tightly-knit community of obscure bands and devoted fans paying homage to the subversive and authentically raw origins of Heavy, Thrash and Black Metal – without interest in commercial success or modern sound trends. Witching Hour is one of those bands fully living by this philosophy, and their Ancient Black Metal has obtained recognition both for iconic live performances and numerous recordings: Founded in 2006 in South-West Germany, Witching Hour delivered their first demo ‘Arrival of the Dark Throne’ in 2007, followed by the full-lengths ‘Rise of the Desecrated’ and ‘Past Midnight…’ in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Only the EP ‘Where Pale Winds Take Them High…’ from 2014 somewhat filled the long silence ever since – naturally, fans of the band are overjoyed for the release of the new full-length record ‘…And Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon’ on December 21, 2018. Let’s give it a spin!
…And Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon / Once Lost Souls Return is a two-in-one track delivering us with ten and a half minutes of goodness: It starts off with a melancholically atmospheric guitar intro, with the sound playing in the beautiful fuzzy space between clean and distorted. Soon the drums set in with carried tempo until the composition develops into a beautifully bittersweet interplay of two guitars. After nearly three dreamy minutes we move into a rhythmically slow-thrashy guitar passage with an unshakeable bass line coming through and slow drum hits gradually developing into thrashy and effective simplicity. We convincingly transition into a more carried part again, which solidifies the mystical darkness of every note. Once the vocals sets in the unique sound character of this band is complete: brightly melodic yet classically distorted guitars, a strong and warm bass foundation, energetic yet unfussy drums and vocals that shine with raw anger and authentic despair. It is no easy feat to write a song that is both aggressively active and epically atmospheric – Witching Hour, however, sure know their craft.
The slow and mighty ending of the first long track is only followed by as much energy as ever in From Beyond They Came. The guitars fly through the scales, the bass again builds a stone-solid yet flexible foundation and the drums push this thrashy yet melodically pleasing feast of sound forward. The track works with interesting tempo variations to set apart and simultaneously connect different passages, which makes for an intriguing flow of dark and brilliantly resounding energy ending with a primal and spitting scream.
The next track Sorrow Blinds His Ghastly Eyes is another impressive example of Witching Hour’s old-school sound aesthetic and magickal songwriting: This track is a very speedy one, it emits sparks of invigorating energy channelled through the signature bright-yet-distorted guitar sound, effectively simple and powerful drumming and hair-raising mighty vocals. A play with a bit of a slow-down before we move into the galloping finale amplifies tension once more, and the concluding slow chord strikes and drum hits are nothing but epic.
Why not a guitar solo at the beginning? Behold Those Distant Skies shows how a very foregrounding guitar melody with catchy riffing and a melodically bouncing bass is more than a good idea to get the listener hooked with a song. The atmosphere built up in this track is full of vigour and carries us through three fully instrumental minutes until the vocals make a short and explosive appearance, only to allow us to get carried away by primarily instrumental magick again.
The Fading Chime of a Graveyard Bell sets in with catchy guitar riffing, straight-forward drum thrashing and truly vile vocals that perfectly combine growling screams with melodic elements, producing a simultaneously aggressive yet solemn atmosphere that only seems to increase throughout the entire track. Picking up and working with the riffs and melodies already introduced at the beginning, this track builds up welling energy and exhilarating tension that stays in the mind and flows through every single cell long after the last note.
The slow and melancholically resounding guitar motif at the beginning of As I Walk Among Sepulchral Ruins is a true ear catcher creating mystical sound magic that reaches full ignition with the vocals screaming out the song title and thus giving the signal for relentless thrashing that serves to carry us away over adventurous soundscapes. Witching Hour truly succeed in combining ancient and most raw blackened Thrash and mystical sound magick into something that is entirely their own. A true underground gem from South-West Germany that deserves a lot more attention for their simultaneously complex and audience-engaging songwriting that gallops forward through the darkest night right into our soul.