Panzerchrist – All Witches Shall Burn EP


We enjoyed Panzerchrist’s third reincarnation last year and praised their ability to surprise, despite anchoring their sound in a disease-ridden blanket of blackened death metal. Fresh from their triumphant return, they give us an EP from 2023’s Last of a Kind recording sessions. And why not when you have a new vocalist to integrate into the promotional cycle? You don’t win slots at the European metal festivals by hiding away like hermits.

It makes sense to tie the EP to one of last year’s standout tracks, ‘Sabbath of the Rat’, from the group’s seventh album. SBR called the song ‘a standard Behemoth assault’ that ‘turns on its head with a wonderful medley of lead guitar and high-reverb keyboard sequences.’ We stick to this observation, but you might feel like you’re in the floorboards and under an extractor fan. The drum snares rattle like Chinese chopsticks idling away on the corner of a dining table. Sonja Rosenlund Ahl’s vocals wretch like a person who watched 2 Girls, 1 Cup under duress (warning: do not google this video). It’s impressive how the band carve out a forlorn melody of harmonising guitars in the middle of this ugly expedition.

The sceptic in you should ask why the six minutes of ‘Stone for the Graveless’ failed to make the cut for last year’s album. Perhaps it would have expanded it beyond tolerable levels? The industrial sampled snare beats in the intro sound like a blacksmith at work before the drums and doom guitars make their entrance. Sonja’s vocals are as morbid as person who finds pleasure in spreading an STD to unsuspecting partners. Listen to the grinding propeller motion of the bass guitar in its lowest velocity setting. This music makes you want to experience the Black Plague of the fourteenth century from the sealed comfort of a time-travelling pod. There’s nothing overproduced here, nor is this song a piece of sabotage. Death metal should threaten pneumonia, and this does the job with admirable glee.

Panzerchrist only produce solemn melodies in the few moments where they dare to embrace the light. But the blast beats need to be more forceful and less brittle in their delivery. ‘Satan is Among Us’ welcomes you to the 1960s counter-culture darkness in the intro with its discordant brass samples and eerie noise effects. Vintage death metal tremolos and gory vocal abrasions suck it towards a plague-ridden land of purgatory. Sonja’s vocals are cracked and dry here, yet they still leave an impact through sheer pain. Once again, we must ask: why does the drummer’s snare sound like somebody striking a rubber tyre?

We know why the studio tomfoolery of closing track, ‘She’s a Witch’, didn’t make the album, yet it has its intrigues. Backwards voices, high-pitched incantations, fearful whispers, and iron furnace reverberations collide as if bringing to life the descriptions of Friedrich Engels’ observations of the factory conditions of Manchester in the 1840s. It might have served its purpose as an interlude on last year’s LP, but adding here is less of a risk.

EPs are platforms for experimenting. You throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. At least two-thirds of this effort are worth your time.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 05/01/2024

Record Label: Emanzipation Productions

Standout track: Stone for the Graveless

Suggested Further Listening: Funeral Chant – Dawn of Annihilation (2021), Iluna Perpetua – Awake at the Deep End (2022), Atrocity – Okkult III (2023)