Review Summary: Female-fronted gothic rock that focuses on heaviness and great riffs.
Only hardcore fans would recognize the name “Ares” as one of the original members of Moonspell
. He played bass on all of their demos up through 1996’s Irreligious
, and had a hand in the band’s musical evolution to that point. For whatever reason, though, he left after that release and seemed to disappear from music - at least on any global scale. After about ten years he finally formed another band in 2006 and it was with cautious optimism that I looked forward to hearing their debut album, Heretic Rapture
. I use the word “cautious” because initial reports seemed to indicate that he had started his own female-fronted gothic rock band. People familiar with the genre have to acknowledge that for every good gothic rock band there are at least a dozen that are terrible, and furthermore, even most of the good bands aren’t known for anything more than their vocalists. It turns out that Witchbreed’s debut manages to avoid most of the genre’s clichés, but also still needs a bit of work in other areas.
has a few really good things going for it – chief among them is their solid musicianship and adherence to a truly heavy sound. The band may be broadly categorized as gothic rock but they’re definitely more than that. The basis of their sound lays in heavy, blackened riffs that push the songs forward in a powerful manner and alleviates the need for any keyboard overcompensation. The percussion only serves to further the heaviness with rolling double-bass fills and inventive patterns that consistently keep the songs sounding fresh. All of this would be for naught if the band had gone the route of finding a run-of-the-mill, pseudo-operatic female vocalist that couldn’t match the heaviness of the music but that is simply not the case. Their vocalist (Ruby) can definitely sing, but she belts out her lines in a commanding and modern style that in no way emulates the fluff of your common gothic rock vocalist. Her great singing voice is also complimented with some very strong growls that are used sparingly to push the aggressive nature of a few of the songs. Unfortunately, despite the great music and powerful vocals everything is not perfect.
The album’s main drawback is that they haven’t entirely learned how to integrate the heavy music with the catchy choruses. The choruses often completely throw off the power and the groove of the music by forcing things down a notch in order to let the hook take precedence. These musical changes aren’t generally very subtle and they destroy the flow of many of the songs. Keep in mind that the songs themselves aren’t destroyed by the loss of intensity but it’s a noticeable element that, once fixed, could put this band in a league of their own. The other issue is that many of the choruses sound much too similar and end up causing the second half of the album to drop in quality despite the songs being great on their own. Other than the issues surrounding the choruses, the only other problem is that the band included a few songs that don’t work as well as the others and could have probably been left off. Doing so would have not only cut down on the repetitive feeling created by the choruses, but would have also improved the flow of the album overall.
Despite some minor issues, Witchbreed have released a great album that sets itself apart by making musicianship and heavy riffs the focal point of every song. Ruby’s powerful vocals that don’t succumb to operatic fluff and a general lack of overbearing keyboards complete the band’s sound in a stylish fashion. This is an album for those that have grown tired of the same generic sound from every female-fronted metal band, and for those that have been turned off by the glaring lack of good riffs from those same bands. With Heretic Rapture
, Witchbreed have set a standard for themselves that with a little tweaking could place them at the top of the genre, but for now this is a good start.