One thing that must be said for the members of HELLWITCH – they are all dexterous musicians. They can riff and shred with the best of them. Their latest release, “Omnipotent Convocation,” is a frantic, chaotic aural assault, sonically attacking the listener with distorted, rapid-fire riffs, furious solos, and menacing screams. Unfortunately, speed and volume are the only things that are offered up here with any consistency, as this album is lacking in originality and musicality.
The songs on this album mostly do little more than peddle the tropes of old-school Speed Metal. There are frantic rhythms aplenty, but during them there seems to be little movement up and down the neck of the guitar. There are lightning fast licks, but they are more speed than melody. In short, this lacks the songwriting strength of some of the other Speed Metal bands that pioneered the genre.
Special attention must be given to the vocals , which quickly become grating to the ear. They are primarily high-pitched shrieks, though there are also the occasional growls. The tone produces a visceral reaction that is similar to the one felt when someone rakes their fingers across a chalkboard, and the impression one gets is of a vocalist who is trying too hard to demonstrate the upper limits of his range.
There a a few bright spots, to be sure. “Mysteria” contains some of the coolest riffs on the album, and the mix is handled better than on the other tracks, allowing the bass to add some depth. “Irreverent Salvation” likewise contains some memorable riffs, as well as some tempo changes that give the song a unique identity when compared to the others. However, for a band that has been around as long as HELLWITCH, listeners should reasonably expect more than a few bright spots and signs of potential.
“Omnipotent Convocation” is the sonic equivalent of a grand mal seizure. It is a violent rictus of an album that does have plenty of energy, but fails to channel that into enjoyment for the listener. Die-hard fans of Speed Metal will enjoy this, but will probably not find enough substance to keep them coming back to it.
(Online January 16, 2010)