I'll be honest with you here; I was a little taken aback at Tue Madsen's crystal clear, thick 'n' rubbery sound mix the first time I heard WITCHERY's "Don't Fear the Reaper". By that I mean that I was expecting the rawer, bloodied thrash sounds of "Dead, Hot and Ready" or "Symphony for the Devil", an approach that I initially thought better sound the WITCHERY style. However, once the memories of those past albums faded, what became apparent was the time and care that was taken in crafting what some will consider WITCHERY's best work.
The blackened, thrashy, and sometimes death metal-tinged approach has been retained; it just happens that you can more clearly hear Sharlee D'Angelo's monstrous bass licks in arrangements that are more dynamic than past works. The quintet of D'Angelo (ARCH ENEMY, MERCYFUL FATE), guitarists Patrick Jensen (THE HAUNTED) and Richard Corpse, drummer Martin Axenrot (BLOODBATH), and vocalist Toxine have created an album that is divided up into mid-tempo iniquitous groove (a majority other songs), demonic speed killing, and moody instrumental pieces. Evil-dripping groovers "Draw Blood", "Crossfixation", "The Ritual", "Ashes", "Damned in Hell", and "Styx" are big, heavy, and downright chilling, Satan's soldiers bursting flooding through Heaven's gates or the Bataan Death March are among the visions that the tracks conjured for me personally. "Ashes" smartly incorporates symphonic black metal-style keys, while "Draw Blood" serves up some penetrating low-register death backing vocals on the chorus. "Crossfixation" has Toxine at his snarling best.
The speedier material is also relatively varied arrangement-wise. "Stigmatized" seamlessly follows album-opening instrumental "Disturbing the Beast" with a main riff that is immediately infectious, the one-and-a-half-minute resurrection of pre-WITCHERY act SATANIC SLAUGHTER's "Immortal Death" a quick shotgun blast to the face, and "Cannon Fodder" a deathly surge of malevolence. "Plague Rider" to me is one of the quintessential WITCHERY tracks — thrashy and nasty with a one-line chorus that sticks in your head. Another SATANIC SLAUGHTER track, "Legion of Hades", clocks in at 1:20 and is included as a bonus track on the North American version. Wrapping up the disc are instrumentals "War Piece" (more like an interlude) and the dark and churning "The Wait of the Pyramids".
You guessed it. There is a lot to sink your teeth into on "Don't Fear the Reaper", and not a second of your time will be wasted at any point along the way. Though I would have preferred a much rougher edge to the sound mix, it is not enough of an issue to keep me from calling "Don't Fear the Reaper" anything but rabid and carnivorous.