Although this album is technically considered to be "thrash metal", it's no big mystery where Hellwitch put their allegiance with, genre-wise. Atheist, Death, and Morbid Angel are just a few of the bands the band pride themselves on sharing the stage with. The influence of these particular bands are evident especially on the band's 1990 debut, arriving in the wake of other such debut releases like Piece of Time and Altars of Madness arriving but a year prior.
However although Hellwitch are clearly inspired by the late-80's technical death movement, they still retain the fan-tribute aura more than I've seen many other bands do. The music is amateurish, almost demo-like, making Syzygial Miscreancy really hard to differentiate from the six years-worth of demos leading up to it, production-wise. This doesn't necessarily detract from the quality, rather it actually sort of renders it it's own charm as a relatively shoestring-budget release. Of course though a not very technically diverse musical landscape can, more often than not, make an album sound rather flat and make tracks sound almost the same, which granted does happen a few times on this particular record. However a few factors make Hellwitch not actually fall on their face.
1. The musicianship. I know we've already rattled on about Hellwitch's influences, but it must be restated as it's extremely important to how they carry themselves. If they are to truly live up to the wrecking-balls that influenced them, they better be able to play like them. And they do. In particular the channeling of Atheist is made clear with the face-melting eclecticism of all three members, especially rapid tour de force on the kit with Joe Schnessel. The almost Voivod-ian guitar solos and the unexpected tonal shifts and guitar hooks all lend a very professional atmosphere even amidst all of the low-fi fuzz.
2. The overall structure of Syzygial Miscreancy is very laudable, with the aforementioned tonal shifts and surprise melodic riffs keep each track very interesting. The album has a short runtime of only 25 minutes, minuscule in terms of most albums of their caliber, yet this short time also makes it so the album doesn't get stale in an instant and doesn't contain filler. It is something I wish more bands would pay attention to- a shorter album could spell great things for how well it ages.
But Hellwitch does make a few mistakes here and there. For instance the random vocal filters Patrick Ranieri uses on some tracks just sound absolutely ridiculous and out of place, and really only serve to get a laugh out of me personally when they're there. Interestingly enough I find that Patrick Ranieri's vocals are the biggest problem with this album, and it could honestly be due to the production. Usually on other albums audio engineers are able to blend the musicians quite well so that, even when one might mess up, it can sometimes go unnoticed, shrouded amongst the music. Amateurish production is more dangerous in this sense because it is sometimes unable to cut the fat. Ranieri's vocal screams, especially on 'Nosferatu' can are extremely strange and silly because often times he sounds more like he's hyperventilating and not screaming. This happens a few times throughout but overall it isn't that huge of an issue as it doesn't seek to degrade any of the instruments, but when these vocal hiccups are there they are still quite distracting.
In all though this particular album is still a winner. Short, sweet, and charming in it's occasionally maladroit delivery, Hellwitch's debut is something definitely to check out.
2017 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher
Have a nice day!