DEATH THRASHING MAD: The history of Hellwitch goes back to 1984 and is littered with a lot of “shoulda, coulda, wouldas,” less than optimal record deals, and a revolving roster door. Add to that a dearth of sustained momentum at the hand of inconsistent touring, the absence of that serendipitous breakthrough moment, and some of the more questionably quizzical titles in the canon of metal, and life has been a constant game of “one step forward, two steps back” for guitarist/vocalist/founding and lone original member Pat Ranieri. All of the above is a crying shame, because if there’s one thing steady and true about Hellwitch’s history, it’s that their run of less-than-stellar luck has been inversely proportional to the quality of the slamming death/thrash they’ve created over the course of their discography.
Annihilational Intercention is only the band’s third official full-length (another sign of how squirrelly their history has been, especially considering their Compilation of Death release from 2017 clocks in at whopping 10 LPs!), and it continues the top-tier combination of technical intricacy, screeching thrash, sinister death metal madness, and the band’s knack for keeping things catchy and infectious even as the train is barreling along at a couple hundred clicks per hour.
“Solipsistic Immortality” rips with an avalanche of unbridled chaos akin to early Possessed and vintage Slayer, features banshee-like wails from Ranieri that rival Sacrifice’s Rob Urbinati, and is complete with guitar solos spanning from whammy bar slapping to well-phrased Shrapnel Records shred. In fact, the above description essentially covers eight of the nine compositions on tap here (“Sorcerous Imminence” is a glorified intro, and the album is rounded out by an updated version of their 1986 demo track “Torture Chamber”). There are easter eggs and highlight nuggets providing breaths of identity and singularity in each of the songs. “Delegated Disruption” opens its mid-section with an extended and engaging harmonized scale run. “Hellwitch” is raw, old school, punk energy indulgence. “Megalopalyptic Confine” shows flashes of a less melodic take on melodic death metal, like a more unkempt version of fellow hard luck death thrashers Epoch of Unlight. And “Anthropophagi” exhibits balladic tendencies and inspirations taken from the NWOBHM.
All in all, Annihilational Intercention is a start to finish banger. Hopefully, the band’s association with Listenable means that more than the usual handful of ear-to-the-subterranean-ground metal fans will hear it. ~ Kevin Stewart-Panko