Review: Arch Blade – Kill The Witch
For fans of sci-fi, comics, horror and straightforward high octane heavy metal, July 28th, 2023 will be a day of reckoning. LA’s Arch Blade are gearing up to drop their debut album Kill The Witch via Rockshots Records. The album’s lead single “Nightbreed” sets expectations high and plays on the foundations and mythology laid by metal legends of the past to take the listener on a nightmarish thrill ride through the hellish dreamscapes of vocalist Denys Podmazko’s mind.
Thrash and speed metal are decades old at this point and many argue there isn’t much else that can be done to innovate within their confines. While there is a certain validity to that statement, many groups seek not to reinvent the wheel but to jack up the entire metal machine with a fresh set of very large powerful tires, poised to tear up whatever obstacle stands in its way. Thus, the so-called “New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal” pulls heavily from days gone by, the golden age of the late ’70s and ’80s kickstarted by the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal”.
The energetic, chaotic sound was pioneered by groups like Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and a cavalcade of others and was the next step in sonic evolution from where metal started in the doomy, bluesy and psychedelic cavernous recesses of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and their NWoBHM contemporaries like Angel Witch, Saxon, Jaguar, Grim Reaper, Tank, Satan, Tygers of Pan Tang, and Witchfinder General have inspired many bands to continue their sound long after metal has gone through many other significant changes and phases.
Similarly to groups like Skullfist, Enforcer, Haunt, and Night Demon, Arch Blade take what was done before, give it a killer face lift and deliver a lean, mean single, and a similarly compact, but destructive album experience.
Chemistry is key and Arch blade’s personnel have it in spades. The dueling guitars of father and son duo Big Rob and Rob V. are constant standouts of the record. Meanwhile the rhythm section traces the rhythmic footprints of metal’s past. Nigel Caicedo’s bass work and metal drumming veteran Al “Mayhem” Mendez are locked in and form the frantically pumping heartbeat of the group. Every riff, every fill, and every solo is precise and delivered expertly with the cherry on top being the vocals of Denys Podmazko.
The track list itself is compact and burns through its runtime at a solid pace. The songs don’t overstay their welcome and have good staying power and re-listenability. Some tracks hit better than others but the ratio of bangers to filler is definitely more on the positive side. The standout tracks are the single “Nightbreed”, “Factory of Sin”, and perhaps the highlight of the whole album, the closing track “Under the Mask”. Even admittedly weaker cuts like “Tyrant Rhapsody” and “Touched By Death” are entertaining and have some solid riffage.
The New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal has its die-hard fans that stand by its nostalgic sounds as well its detractors that consider it generic and derivative. Arch Blade circumvents the potential cookie cutter pitfalls that come with a style of music that draws so heavily on sounds from the past and creates some truly unique and well crafted music. While it doesn’t break new ground, it’s not really trying to. This is clearly a band that has a creative vision and has set out full speed ahead guns blazing to bring that vision to life. Kill the Witch is a very solid debut album and shows a lot of promise. Arch Blade is a group that needs more eyes on them; if you’re a fan of the recent work of bands like Enforcer, then definitely give “Kill the Witch” a listen.
Top tracks: “Under the Mask”, “Nightbreed”, and “Factory of Sin”
3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Kill The Witch is out on July 28th via Rockshots Records.