The Cult Metal Classics label is known for digging up past metal jewels and re-releasing them. Most of them are from the 80’s and here we have a new band and a new album from this label and I gotta tell you: if Steelwitch were an 80’s band this EP would be considered a stone cold classic and they’d be straight to the top of this label roster. This is indeed top shelf stuff from this Greece based duo who carry dominant US 80’s metal influences. Think first EP Queensryche, Liege Lord, early Omen, and Savage Grace in a blender. Season that with a handful of other great heavy metal bands from that era and you have this EP. To my ears that is not hyperbole, but an accurate description of the territory this lands in. Steelwitch have definitely carved their own identity and if the previously mentioned bands perked up your radar, you’re going to love this.
“Last Winter’s Day” starts things off in a blistering and authoritative manner. The sound of approaching trudging foot-steps through the snow quickly gives way to a rousing riff over a pounding rhythm section (all courtesy of Ungod who handles guitar, bass, and drums and hails from a slew of Grecian black, death and thrash bands) and then the vocals of Giorgos Papagiannakis (of Grecian progressive metal crew Absinthiana) kick in soaring over the music in triumphant fashion. I cannot see how any true metal head does not heed the call of this head banging glory. The quality here is just stellar. The song writing, the musical execution, perfectly placed solos, and just the overall feel…it’s all here in spades.
The opening song is difficult to match, but “Cursed Dreams” comes so damn close its astounding. A lot of bands have that one song that stands far above the rest of their output (let’s face it Queensryche never came close to matching “Queen of the Reich”) and after hearing the lead track here, I was concerned this might be the case here. No such worries here as the second track continues the hallmark sound and quality of Steelwitch with a bit more NWOBHM feel seasoning the sonic stew. “A Legacy of Swords” is a speedy pounder with no sacrifice of song quality, a real heads-down banger all the way.
“Moonlight Whispers” while a completely different song, riff, and melody recalls the rousing feel of the lead track with a similarly enveloping chorus. The title track wraps things up in an aggressively affirmative fashion. There is no missing the message that “We are Steelwitch and we’ve come to slay!”. Steelwitch have stamped their claim in an undeniable fashion and placed themselves firmly as one of the leading lights of the NOWTHM movement. The talent on offer here is brilliant and perhaps most importantly there is the strength in the song writing that gives those talents the right vehicle to really shine. We can only hope that they eventually add some live members and play out when we get to a post Covid-19 world. Heavy metal needs this band…we need more and they better be working on a full length!
Favorite track: Last Winter’s Day