Released: 2009, Ascendance Records
Witchbreed is a Lisbon band started by Dikk and former Moonspell bassist Ares, who had apparently left Moonspell under less than ideal circumstances. They then recruited Madeiran warbler Ruby Roque, Felipe Sousa on guitar and Tiago Lopes on drums to complete the lineup. The story goes that they were signed to Ascendance Records within three hours of putting up their songs on Myspace, and HERETIC RAPTURE is their debut album.
Witchbreed play a form of power metal very much in the vein of bands like mid-era Edguy and Firewind, especially as they also incorporate a very rock-ish sound into stuff like their riffing. Take away the speed of Gus G and the Sauer/Ludwig guitar combo on the early albums, add a lot more darkness, a trifle more symphony and lots of midpaced head-nodders, and you have Witchbreed in a nutshell. At the same time, they also sound like later Nightwish in their use of keyboards and, rather surprisingly, have quite a bit of Candlemass-type heaviness, especially on downbeat songs like ‘Eden’s End’.
The very beautiful Ruby Roque takes centre stage pretty much most of the time when she’s at the mic, and she’s undoubtedly from the Amanda Somerville/Veronica Freeman school of soul and R&B influenced singing. You know the type, the Tina Turner blast-your-ears-off with power and lots of stuff like “Ah surrender-her to the-her mid-naht su-hun” and “Lea-heav-ing-uh the sha-ha-dows be-hi-ahnd”. Slight case of oversinging here, but I’m thankful at least that she goes for power rather than range. It would be very intolerable if she was belting all that out at an octave above what she’s at now. As it is, although it grates after a while, it’s still a novel (and welcome) change from all the ethereal songbirds out there like Simone from Epica or Vibeke Stene from Tristania.
The problem is that the album really gets off to a good start, then sort of peters out about a quarter of the way through. The second song ‘Symphony For The Fallen’ is an ass-kicking song with heavy yet fast riffs and double bass drumming. The third song, ‘Thy Eclipse’, slows it down slightly which is a welcome contrast, before ‘Rebel Blood’ kicks off the unrestrained headbanging again (as well as having a really memorable chorus, the changes in its mood and tempo makes it one of the best songs on HERETIC RAPTURE for me.)
The general pace starts to fall off after ‘Rebel Blood’, and almost every song from here on is largely a mid-paced, chunky downbeat clunker that have one too many symphonic interludes for my liking. Now I do like their doom-y bits but this is where Ruby starts to outstay her welcome. We hear significantly more of her than the rest of the band at this point, and the vocal acrobatics start becoming more noticeable and more grating. The last half of the record suffers from this in my opinion – not enough pace, too many unnecessary interruptions and too much of Ruby.
It’s a good first album for the Portuguese band to have under their belt, and it’s a worthy first effort that they should be proud of. Ruby is a good singer that just takes a bit of getting used to, and the band’s songwriters are evidently unafraid to find their own style instead of just sticking to a template. If they tighten up the songwriting to give more focus to the band as a whole, while trimming off a lot of the fat, they can then expand on the many good ideas that they undoubtedly have.