Witchtower / Blackslash - A Tribute to Randy

Witchtower / Blackslash A Tribute to Randy
Witchtower / Blackslash
A Tribute to Randy
Iron Shield Records
What a boon! The primary bands responsible for ceremoniously rocking my brain pan this summer – one, with its fantastic third full-length released in May, the other, thanks to a devastatingly festive and engaging 2014 titular debut – boast of a highly novel and collaborative split CD released in April under Iron Shield Records, Blackslash’s choice label (as well as Germanic deliverer of metal goods ranging from Axevyper to Revenge), and lemme tell ya, it’s freakin’ awesome!
Firstly, although the six, evenly parted Witchtower and Blackslash tracks whip by like so much windshield splatter, once Blackslash’s stylish, Riot evoking “Eyes of a Stranger” swoons to a close, you’ll be twitching, like a hamster’s snout, to spin ‘em again... and again... and again! No kidding, Vic and the gang’s blunt-as-fuck, pummeling cover of Randy’s “The Beast” crocked me harder than Humpty Dumpty’s fall. Immediately, its thunderously tart, mashing drum roll and pulverizing bass swats will jar you senseless; by the time you gather your wits, you’ll be jubilantly pumping your head and banging your fists while sauntering around town out of sheer, ferocious joy... it’s quite outstanding, really. I can’t get enough of the first as well as post-solo verses; dig the former (as well as longer) variation:
“See that flaming sign
And if you read the lines
You know, you know it’s for real
Now your time has come
You should be on the run
Beware, cause it’s gonna kill”
The production, for the Witchtower portion of the CD anyhow, is swathed in vicious and viscous, pounding layers of murky gain which make the bass and drums imperially rise to the fore whilst paternally shrouding the smoothly buzzing guitars to the backdrop of Vic’s laid back and convivially nonchalant bellows and shouts. Er... in other words, the mastering and mixing on the split’s first half is slightly muddier than on the “Return to the Witches’ Castle” EP and even more robust and squat, as well as less hollow, than on Witchtower’s mind-blowing and fun titular debut.
While you’ll still reeling from “The Beast”’s infectiously skippy guitar riff and daring, Blackmore-esque guitar solo, as well as ensuing fanatical fret board libations, “Ride or Die” lewdly rolls by for a token fire n’ brimstone roasting in the form of melancholic-ally pleasing harmonies and ungodly, motorized gyrations issuing forth from a demoniacally hip rhythm section which gleefully festoons this hellish command from beginning to end. The longest track at just under six minutes, it definitely has more of a base rock n’ roll feel akin to AC/DC, Saxon or perhaps a leisurely clipped, diesel sputtering Motorhead.
In any case, this elegantly sordid selection ambles along at such an uncharacteristically lazy albeit infernal pace I feel it should have succeeded the machine-gun firing and Tank/Vardis emulating scoundrel, “Drunk as Hell” (Cauldron, they of “Drinking Beer and Breaking Shit”, readily hail!), whose fuming, rock & sock ‘em one-two delivery sees me skiddering around uncontrollably like a shocked, bedraggled bedbug victim while throwing punches in every direction. I especially dig the freaked out and debilitating clothes-line jerk provided by that insanely placed guitar lick which repeatedly somersaults off the main riff like a raging circus acrobat. Although it originally pops up eight seconds in, you’ll easily – and spastically! – recognize it. Overall, Witchtower’s rampantly caroming, Herkimer-jerkimer rhythms make me feel like a hostage at a bachelorette party...
Now for the Blackslash segment of the review (which, granted, is rather short, but in no way should this detract from your impression of the recording’s harmony – excuse the oxymoron – and fist-pumping solidity. I simply don’t aspire to write a novel tonight!).
Well, if you’ve gleaned my ridiculously pumped and enthused write-up for Blackslash’s “Lightning Strikes Again” (out on June 17th), you’ll know the two adequately representative tracks chosen, “Night City Street Lights” and “Eyes of a Stranger”, along with an eccentric and absurdly merry reprise of “It’s Got to Be Love”, first released on a no-name demo back in ‘87, adhere to criminally catchy musical, as well as well as lyrical formulas which would revitalize the dreariest of social functions. In fact, the romantic and subtly tugging “Hotel California” sounding clean guitar progression, which comes at the behest of a revving engine (check out this quirk’s retro monochrome pazuzutube video for uncannily conducive accompaniment), niftily behoves a (white) wedding. Initially, it threw me off guard and almost compelled me to bail out.
Luckily, I stuck around and was amazed by Blackslash’s maturity in making such a wise and sanguine selection, for it is pure, vintage and unadulterated old time rock n’ roll from a time before color TVs and when drag-racing and playing “chicken” were considered wholesome all-American past times. Indeed, following its seemingly limp-wristed and morbidly awkward introduction, my patience was rewarded with fetching staccato riffing sharp and salient enough to split hairs, along with ballsy, floor quaking anthemic verses which rival anything by Queen or the Eagles. Suffice to say, I’m dashingly ensnared by the naively optimistic and hooking chorus, not to mention a ravishing tell-tale lead break magniloquently clearing the stage for a comely post-solo bridge. All told, Blackslash couldn’t have covered a more appropriate track, regardless of origin.
At this point, you’re possibly and wryly musing: “How or why in frig does a classy German "traditional" heavy metal band such as Blackslash and a much brasher and raucous – as well as rock-ish – Spanish shit-kicker like Witchtower team up for such an off-the-wall and unorthodox but incredibly indelible production, which is essentially a fond and gregarious tribute to a "Danish heavy metal legend" such as Randy?”… well, supposedly, while on the road one of the Blackslashers innocuously popped an old Randy cassette of undisclosed and mysterious origin into the tape deck... (Those who reasonably assumed homage was being paid to Mercyful Fate or even Witch Cross are duly forgiven!)…
Before long, the gang was merrily rocking out to “It’s Got to Be Love” and knew right then and there they had to record a Randy cover. Who else to broach the idea and partner up with than Witchtower’s affably idiosyncratic figurehead, Victor, a notorious and long-standing adept of the sorely underrated Randers, Denmark 80s rockers, who finally released a long overdue – and rabid Hulk/liver-eater adorned! – compilation in 2010, and believe it or not, were also known as “Slip n’ Slide” (such an uproariously ambiguous moniker wistfully brings me back to my youth and hot, sultry summer days ideal for breaking out the hose and wet banana with your neighboring pals atop a grassy knoll!).
So, there you have it: Witchtower & Blackslash’s “Tribute to Randy” features six powerfully stampeding cuts divided between two fairly dissimilar yet uniformly gripping contemporaries, a couple of which, effectively, at the drop of a rumpled hat opened my “virtuous” eyes to said sinewy albeit shamelessly thespian Scandinavian heavy metal folklore (based upon which a jocosely written review may very well come to an erudite, head-banging repository near you!).
Simply put, get your mitts on this (lick-ity) split!
“All through the years there have always been wars
Young men have offered their lives
I wish that we would all fight the same cause
Change the whole World to be nice”
It’s got to be love, oh yeah!