Swedish black/thrash/death hybrid act are certainly whetting my appetite for their upcoming sophomore album (out later this year) with this impressive and fun collection of early demos with two newer treats at the end. Witches Funeral begins with four very rough original demos, which highlight a young and hungry act who knew how to combine a Satan-loving blackened atmosphere with technical thrash, and they did it with quite a bit of flare right out of the gate, all things considered. While little to nothing inventive exists in the band’s earliest tunes, it’s clear there is a passion and energy that elevates everything. Even if the muddy recording quality works in their favor, capturing the group’s vicious grasp of fist-in-the-air metal.
Things take a dramatic turn when “Witches Funeral” starts, signaling an improvement across the board: recording quality, songcraft, energy, and personality. There’s a distinct death metal tinge to the following four songs, and considering this came from Nekrokraft’s initial EP, these Swedes clearly took a dramatic step up in a short time. There some hints of Cradle of Filth’s theatrical bombast, especially in Angst’s impressive vocal range. Despite the aggression and technicality on display, there’s a keen emphasis on melody that screws these songs into your head with an impressive bit of force. If Satanic blackened death/thrash can be warm and welcoming, then that’s certainly the case here.
It’s when we get to the final two, newest numbers where we see everything come together, and it’s the clearest sense of Nekrokraft’s potential. “Wrath of the Heavens” in particular, recalls a meatier and more grandiose Skeletonwitch, and the dose of atmospheric black metal adds a haunting element to the group’s sound that I hope they embrace more in the future. Ultimately, Witches Funeral feels a bit uneven as a whole product, but it offers a fantastic glimpse at a band with a steep learning curve and a near-mastery of making the harshest styles of metal so damn pleasing to the ears. For those looking for the next big underground metal act, let this wonderful collection prepare you for what’s to come.