Label: The Sign Records
Blackened thrash is the kind of genre where less can often be more. It doesn’t need to be progressive, or musically forward-thinking, or risk thinking outside of its box. Instead, the genre is often at its best when bands nail the fundamentals; when the riffs and leads are fast and vicious, the drums a crashing hammer of power, and the vocals utterly unhinged. Nekrokraft tick all of these boxes, and Witches Funeral – a compilation of their early demos, including two previously unreleased tracks – shows that the band were writing top-quality blackened thrash right from their very first days.
Given that the tracks on Witches Funeral are taken from demos, there is an expected rawness to them, both in terms of sound quality – delightfully red and raw – and songwriting itself, which is stripped of all superfluous elements. The songs are remorseless attacks of riffs and crashing drums, that combine vicious power with an ear for dark melodies. As that might imply, the blackened thrash of Nekrokraft is utterly Satanic and blasphemous in nature – there’s more than a hint of early Dissection to some of the melodies, which is no bad thing at all. But what it doesn’t make clear is that, despite being direct in their execution and songwriting, the tracks of Witches Funeral don’t rely just on speed and raw power to be effective. The title track and ‘Upon A Throne’ both feature very effective mid-tempo sections, and the contrast between these movements and the faster segments works to the benefit of both elements.
Even so, Witches Funeral is a record that is still largely characterised by its speed and aggression. It’s an invigorating listen, full of moments that are sure to inspire instinctive head-banging and raised fists, and whilst it doesn’t take blackened thrash in any new directions, it isn’t the kind of record that’s intended to do so. Indeed, such is the quality of the songwriting and performances that it can be easy to forget that this is a compilation of demos, and it’s notable that the two covers included – Bathory’s ‘Satan My Master’, and ‘Angel of Death’ by Slayer – don’t overshadow the original compositions, as songs of that quality and stature might normally do.
Whilst demo compilations like this are normally only of interest to hardcore fans of the band in question, Witches Funeral is that rare example of such a compilation that is worth recommending both to newcomers, and also to those already familiar with Nekrokraft from previous album Will O’Wisp. It is a hugely enjoyable ride, full of dark blasphemous energy and the pure thrill of metal, and it’s no surprise that vocalist Angst has been recruited by Swedish blackened thrash legends Witchery. A new full album is due in late 2018, and Witches Funeral is sure to stoke excitement over this prospect even higher.