Released: 2004, Noise Records
…And so it came to pass that the year 2004 shall be known as the YEAR OF THE WITCH. Jack Frost has unleashed another true metal masterpiece that will enchant, enrapture, and spellbind the metal masses.
If you liked the previous Seven Witches album, PASSAGE TO THE OTHER SIDE, then you don’t even need to wonder about buying the new one since it’s a given that it rules as well. YEAR OF THE WITCH doesn’t top the previous album, and since I am a nit picky bastard about bands I love, I will tell you why if you read on. The album is broken into two sections, first with 6 individual songs, and then a concept section called “Jacob”.
The album opens with “Metal Asylum” which is a lyrical tribute to heavy metal in which homage is paid to all the key classic metal gods (Priest, Maiden, Ronnie James Dio, Slayer, Motorhead, etc….). This is a fun track which is played with the typical Seven Witches finesse. “Year of the Witch” is another catch track whose main riff casts a deadly spell. “Fires Below” below keeps the hellfire burning, stoking the flames continually higher with a deadly vocal melody by James Riveria. “Cries of the Living” is decent, but there are some doubled vocal lines where the high and low voice sounds a bit off on the chorus. This song is one of the weaker ones on the CD, but is still listenable. “If You Were God” starts out and sounds very much like a classic 80’s heavy metal anthem. “Can’t Find My Way” begins with clean guitars and the awesome golden voice of James Rivera. There’s a nice delay effect and left/right panning on the vocals here that sounds great. Luckily the clean part isn’t just found at the intro but is returned to for the verses with the heavier chorus. Although mid-tempo and sort of a ballad, this is a very powerful track.
Now we get to the changeover place in the album from the first 6 individual songs to the mini-concept section called “Jacob”. When I read the song titles on the disc, prior to playing the album, I was excited to see that this “Jacob” section had eight songs. However, upon closer inspection and playing it, it is really only 3 full length songs. The intro to this section is “Act. 1: Whispers” and is only spoken word with “Jacob” said repeatedly in whispers. It sounds a bit cheesy and made me think of a lesser version of the now classic Queensyche “I Don’t Believe In Love” (the part with the spoken: “We know you did it, why’d you do it”). The first full song in this section is “Voice of Jacob” and sounds very classy again with some great vocals from James, especially on the chorus. “Mirror Mirror” again has the cheesiness, this time with a Poltergeist (the movie) reference, “Jacob, Jacob, go towards the light Jacob”….step into the light Carol-Anne! Umm…no. I somewhat forgive everything upon the arrival of the next song “Haunting Dreams”. Perhaps I’m being a bit too hard with my cheese comments, however, if you’re going to do a semi-concept album you only need to look to the high bar set by OPERATION MINDCRIME and if you can’t reach it perhaps you should forget it and just write some songs and not tie them together with silly talking. Anyway, I’ll leave it up to you if you think they pull off the concept idea from a listener point of view.
If you call yourself a fan of TRUE heavy metal you should already be a fan of Seven Witches. The combination of Jack’s guitar playing and songwriting with James’ vocals makes this an easy band to get into.