Released: 2003, Noise/Sanctuary Records
Seven Witches have returned with a new album, new line-up, and an album that puts present day Judas Priest to shame! Vocalist Wade Black is not on this album. I am able to swallow this since Jack Frost has chosen a very good vocalist to take the vocal spot – James Rivera. I know James from his killer work with Destiny’s End and Helstar. Rounding out the line-up is renowned bassist Joey Vera (Armored Saint/Engine/Fates Warning), and drummer Brian Craig (Destiny's End).
PASSAGE TO THE OTHER SIDE has better production then it’s predecessor, XILED TO INFINITY AND ONE. Jack had some help in that department from Joey Vera. PASSAGE TO THE OTHER SIDE features 11 songs of Judas Priest worship. The “Priestlyness” opens with “Dance With The Dead” which is pretty much 50% priest-like but on the second track, “Mental Messiah” the PAINKILLER priest-isms are taken to the forefront with James Rivera doing his best to emulate Rob Halford right down to rolling a few R’s. I know James has more to his bag of tricks then copping Halford, and he lets his own style show through in many other places. Detractors will only focus on the parts of this album where they sound like a Judas Priest clone band, and yes it is clear that they are bringing out the Priest influence on this album, even more than on XILED TO INFINITY AND ONE which sounds very little like this album. Beyond the priest style is a song like “Johnny” which sounds nothing like a Priest track except for the vocals on the chorus…wow is that Halford?!. “Apocalyptic Dreams” borderlines on thrash with the main riff in the song. “Fever In The City” belts out with more of a classic metal feel and one of the strongest chouses on the CD. In the song “Betrayed” the lyrics mention “the Judas Kiss” – a sign of what they had in mind when writing the album no doubt? “The Last Horizon” begins with some nice soloing by Jack. I think in terms of guitar soloing he’s also done a better job on this album. Not that the leads were at all sub-par before, just that he’s outdone himself. This is one of the heavier tracks on the album minus the more power metal like sing along chorus. Like on the last Seven Witches album the band has taken a classic metal song and provided a get cover. I’m a sucker for classic heavy metal, so of course I love their covers. Last time it was a cover of Grim Reaper’s “See You In Hell”. This time they take the Def Leppard song “Wasted” and make it their own pretty much sounding like it could have been a Seven Witches original. Frost even does the vocals on this one and he does a fine job! His vocals are not like Def Lep, but they suit the song. The album hardly ever lets up in intensity yet is not repetitive at all. The aggression is only slightly lowered on the closing track “Passage to the Other Side” which is a duet with Jack Frost and James Riveria. The lyrics on this one are deeply personal to Jack, and in fact much of the album deals with darker themes. On first listen I hardly noticed there were two vocalists. The beginning of the song has clean guitar and James does some awesome vocals here.
When I first got this CD I was of two minds. On one hand I was disappointed that Wade Black was not returning, since I love his vocals. However, after listening to the CD just a few times I was won over and any misgivings I had were forgotten. This is not like the previous album, or even the one before that which I’ve heard (SECOND WAR IN HEAVEN). This is the best Seven Witches album I’ve heard and with the band getting better and better with each album they are easily in the top echelon of US heavy metal bands.