Bewitcher – Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (Century Media)

It’s no real surprise that Century Media pounced on Bewitcher, given the Motörhead-fuelled, speed metal triumph that was 2019’s Under The Witching Cross.

Ablaze with hi-octane ragers such as Hexenkrieg and Savage Lands Of Satan, the trio’s second album screamed “live fast or die”, reaped souls across the world and put Bewitcher on a par with the likes of Midnight.

However, anyone simply wanting a repeat performance might be disappointed by Cursed Be Thy Kingdom.

There’s a touch more polish on the band’s bulletbelts.

The pedal isn’t always to the metal.

And on Mystifier (White Night City) and Valley Of The Ravens especially, the band opt for a more mid-paced, hard rocking vibe, which might seem like anathema to anyone craving the rapid-fire attack of Under The Witching Cross or earlier songs like Sin Is In Her Blood.

However, the Portland boys haven’t gone soft.

This is unmistakeably Bewitcher.

And by drawing more on their NWOBHM influences, and keeping their writing sharp and focused, the Oregon outfit have delivered an album bulging with metal anthems.

Mystifier (White Night City) might represent a misstep for some, but The Widow’s Blade and the title track crackle with the fire of Bewitcher’s 2016 debut.

And they’re by no means the best on offer here either.

On Death Returns… and Metal Burner, vocalist/guitarist M. von Bewitcher’s frets roar with the spirit of an embryonic Iron Maiden, and Satanick Magick Attack, with its mighty, Mantas-style riff, wouldn’t be out of place on a Venom classic.

Then we have the surging Electric Phantoms, which could have been born of a marriage between Raven and Tygers Of Pan Tang – and adds to the band’s timeless appeal.

Bewitcher hail Pentagram!

The album’s closer, a stunning cover of Pentagram’s Sign of the Wolf, is proof the devil always has the best tunes.

It’s Satanic panic rock n’ roll at its finest, a river of adrenaline cascading over Luciferian power chords.

So yes, swapping speed for simplicity was a bold move for the trio.

But Cursed Be Thy Kingdom proves their decision has paid off.

Band photo: Tim Keenan Burgess.

Bewitcher album cover