Demonocracy / Witchcraft Split EP Review

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An unholy pairing, if ever there was one, this split EP features contributions from Italian black metal crew Demonocracy and the diabolical Finnish force that is Witchcraft. Available via Nuclear War Now! Productions, this five-track release is a brutal, unsparing ride into darkness that will have black metal fans foaming at the mouth. Available on CD (mid-August) and LP (in September), this dark and unpleasant gem is a near perfect example of metal at its twisted, blackened best.

Opening proceedings, Demonocracy kick off with ‘Archaic remains of the numinous’, a near-nine-minute epic that churns and boils with unremitting hostility. This is black metal at its most ferocious, the band trading discordant thrash riffs and crepitating vocals that emerge from somewhere deep in the bowels of the earth. The first new work from the band since 2013, this is a remarkable track that will enthrall newcomers and remind fans of what they’ve been missing. The band use the song’s length well, digging deep to deliver a performance that moves from brutal blackened thrash through to suffocating doom and back again, and if this is an example of the level at which the band are now writing, it’s safe to say their next work will be one to watch out for indeed. The band’s second, and final, contribution to the EP is a cover of Goatlord’s ‘Underground church’, which is given a sulfuric kick in the ass and sent staggering off into the darkness pumped full of Benzedrine and malevolent hate. Closer in spirit to latter day Darkthrone (think ‘too old, too cold’), it’s spiteful, dark and utterly unrepentant… which is how we like it.

Next up are Witchcraft (formerly Black Feast), a Finnish act who have been slowly spreading their sickness via series of split releases and demos. Opening with the creeping horror of ‘At the diabolous hour’, the listener is reminded of the soundtrack to eighties horror movies such as the Evil Dead. Howling feedback and tolling bells abound as a demonic voice slithers from the blackness, invoking the primitive blackened noise that is ‘grave immolation’. A dank, rattling cacophony, this homes in on the spirit of the early Hellhammer recordings with buzz-saw guitars, barely-audible drums and vocals ripped straight from Satan’s larynx. It’s the sort of black metal that was traded on cheap C60s back in the early eighties and it eschews all modern production values in favour of a sound so raw you could hang it in a butcher’s shop. An object lesson in extremity, few will admire its charms, but those who do will likely spend the next few months trying to digest every putrid detail through the fuzz. The EP closes with ‘perverted temple of goatsodomy’, a doom-laden trawl through the shores of hell that seems an entirely apt conclusion to proceedings.

Dense and unforgiving, both Demonocracy and Witchcraft hone in on the most extreme aspects of black metal. Of the two bands, Demonocracy offer a more refined sound whilst Witchcraft wallow in the dank atmosphere of those potent early demos by Darkthrone and Hellhammer. Clearly this is music for the fanatical few, but if the blackest of metal is your thing, then this is an awesome release from a respected label and well worth tracking down.

8/10

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