Witchtrap - Trap the Witch - (6.5/10)
Published on February 4, 2017
What did Motörhead’s bass-toting, whiskey-swigging, hell-raising frontman mean for heavy metal? Before he sadly went off to the throne in the sky that Dio had been keeping warm for him, his lifestyle and his attitude represented an affirmation of the belief that metal will never die, that living on the edge and not giving a fuck was the proper way to go about things. Then, since he died, Lemmy has come to symbolize the same idea but in the immortal way that is only possible for those who are gone: in heavy metal terms, Lemmy had a clean sheet because he never sold out, never gave up, and never got old, (and never did a reality show, eh Ozzy?) so his reputation cannot now be spoiled.
So, what does all this have to do with Witchtrap and their imaginatively titled album Trap the Witch? Well, it just so happens that they have named the first of the eight tracks after the man himself, with such descriptive lyrics as “You see me wearing denim and leather; my hair is long, my face is ugly, dirty and mean.” There is even the rather thought-provoking image of Lemmy as someone who has “come from hell to pillage your town”, although Trap the Witch was recorded just before his passing so we can give the band the benefit of the doubt. It then falls to us to philosophize about the place of Lemmy on the album. One can see that the man’s dedication to rock and roll is as absolute as Witchtrap’s, while the posture of sticking steadfastly to their guns would certainly please a band who see their hero as “49% motherfucker, 51% son of a bitch”.
However, there are other aspects of the comparison that do not place Witchtrap in such a favourable light. While Motörhead largely sounded like no one else and developed a sound that was integral to the intensifying of heavy metal (not least Lemmy’s bass sound that apparently “will bring your home down”), this three-piece cannot be said to do the same. Frequently described as black thrash metal, though leaning as hard on the thrash side as the one-legged lean on crutches, we have here a trip down memory lane, stopping at most of the significant addresses in thrash’s little black book. Sodom and Destruction references knock loudly at the door, particularly when considering the gritty tones of – er… – Burning Axe Ripper’s vocals, the speedy sprint of his riffs, and the presence of a man named Witchhammer on drums. Sadly, it proves not to be the reincarnation of the departed Sodom sticksman, but none of the musicians fail to pull their weight, even if they come up with little of novelty.
Don’t let it be said that Witchtrap limit themselves to merely Germanic worship either, since there is plenty of time spent revisiting the shrines of American thrash, not least in the Overkill touches of “Brimstone in the Air”, while the lyrics follow in the vein of early Sepultura and Slayer. Because there is little deviation from the dark magic and night time burning that the vocalist describes – also due to some dodgy lines, such as “My soul, my life and my will open the gates to the horny lord” – it’s best to concentrate on the riffs, which are generally strong and quick, only dropping to slower pace during the bruising “Power of the Maul” and the brief bass solo in “The Subtle Touch of Fire”. The rapid right hand and sparkling fills set the pattern for most of the riffs, whizzing out from the likes of “Disciple of Death” and “Brimstone in the Air” with accurate ferocity, while only “The Subtle Touch of Fire” adds any black metal elements, underpinning the repetitive marching riff with some unshowy blastbeats.
The songs don’t show quite enough variation to keep interest high throughout, a problem compounded by unimaginative song structures, yet the end of the album displays the most diverse material. “Don’t Lift the Curse” possesses one of the most gripping riffs of the 35 minutes and also succeeds in making the chorus stick despite the lyrical idiocy; “Hard Thrashing Mania” is confusingly the only song that doesn’t have any thrash riffs, going the route of more traditional heavy metal a la Judas Priest; finally, “Trap the Witch” manages to cut loose and include an ounce of danger, especially in the icy Witchery-esque bridge riff that suits the midnight theme. None of the songs are poor by themselves, though some may find the longer slog of the mid-paced “Power of the Maul” rather more of a challenge, plus the riffing in “The Subtle Touch of Fire” falls below expectations.
In short, this album does little new in the thrash sphere, though what it does do is fairly satisfying in short bursts. None of the songs are going to ruin your week, though it’s unlikely they will make your day either. To some degree a success, Trap the Witch proves to be an effective channeling of the metal spirit, meaning Lemmy won’t be hurling thunderbolts down at this lot any time soon.