Review Summary: Forgotten gem from Florida's once-legendary death metal scene.
Florida is known for a handful of things: senior citizens, orange juice, fratboy losers, Cuban immigrants, John Hanson and death metal. As interesting as these all may be, it's the last one that's particularly relevant. Florida death metal is strong for a few reasons. It's got the down and dirty death metal of Obituary, the angular face-smashing work of Morbid Angel, the shape-shifting Death and the thrashy-come-technical twiddling of Atheist. Alongside these more obvious choices are the lesser known acts. There's Nocturnus, a band that succeeded in spite of its tacky sci-fi themes and vivaciously queer keyboard work. And then there's Hellwitch, a band who relegated themselves to the annals of obscurity as a result of bad timing and an unpronounceable album title. Syzygial Miscreancy
, their lone album, came out in 1990---just one year after Atheist's jaw-dropping and eerily similar sounding Piece of Time
Like Piece of Time
, Syzygial Miscreancy
starts off with a synthy, disposable intro that begs the question, “Nocturnus anyone?”. “Nosferatu” promptly answers with a resounding no. The track, like the 5 it precedes, is an unrelenting mishmash of piercing, thrashy death metal. Playing the brand of death metal that lends itself to words like 'scathing', 'piercing' and 'ravenous', Hellwitch share more than a few similarities with Atheist, the band whose unmitigated success is perhaps as responsible as anything for their unfair placement in death metal history's back pocket. Alongside their technical brand of thrashy death metal, Patrick Ranieri's partly-yelled, partly-shouted and entirely rabid vocal delivery bears a striking resemblance to Kelly Shaefer's. But at least Patrick isn't a girl's name.
Of course Hellwitch's similarity to early Atheist is as much a product of coincidence as it is demographic. And of course that's another product of shit
ty timing: they both formed in 1984 but Hellwith was a year late releasing their debut. Ultimately, its irrelevant. The comparison is a lazy and obvious one and holds no real bearing on the music, which is for the record far more incendiary and unrelenting than anything Atheist would ever write, with a surprisingly charming acoustic break in “Mordirivial Dissemination” being the album's only break from insanity.
Barring the occasional technical misstep and the rare put perplexing use of vocal effects, Syzygial Miscreancy
is 25 minutes of blast-heavy, shred-heavy and treble dominated death-thrash that rarely falters. It's a forgotten piece of history and while it falls just short of being classic, it's still a must hear for anyone with an ear for the early, not so swampy Florida sound.