One of my favorite things about the Greek scene (and there are a lot of them) is how the bands can so clearly influence each other while still sounding wholly unique. Katavasia, a supergroup of sorts, emerged last year with an incredible debut that sounded entirely Hellenic but still stood its own, war-torn ground. And with such influential bands as Rotting Christ and Varathron running strong for over two decades, it’s great to see the influences imparted without giving way to (too many) imposters.
I pretend to be a student of this scene, so I was shocked to stumble across Lucifer’s Child months after The Wiccan was unleashed. Their first album is so fun, so unique, and so singularly Greek that one would of imagined it igniting the metallic blogosphere into a drooling frenzy. But with the ‘best of’ rush getting earlier and earlier every year, it’s no surprise that a new, unknown Greek band on what’s traditionally a Norwegian Viking-ish label would get lost in the mix late in the year.
What draws me to Lucifer’s Child is how clearly defined their sound is already despite having no clear history. It’s far removed from traditional black metal, with nary a tremolo or double bass beat to be found and odd, circusy riffs drilling themselves into your brain and triggering whatever sort of dance mechanism black metal fans may have. Vocalist Marios Dupont does his best Sakis Tolis impression, and while that type of thunderous cry has become a mainstay on the peninsula, it’s still a refreshing vocal attack that fits the quartet.
But they don’t reveal this all at once, as the opening track only hints at the cards they’re holding without giving away the full hand. It’s a mid-paced rocker with some - but not too much - guitar trickery that’s a perfect appetizer for the dessicated feast to come. I declare all bands should copy this method: Instead of having some nonsense ambient intro that doesn’t doesn’t sound anything like the rest of the record, make an “Hors de Combat” to tease and intrigue, holding back until you really want to show off.
And showing off is just what they do for the next few tracks. “A True Mayhem”, “Spirits of Amenta”, and “He, Who Punishes Slays” are just plain ludicrous in what they achieve. While the song construction is fairly simple - take a fairly weird and catchy-as-fuck riff and toss in some rockin’ drums - it’s executed so well what it disguises you from what this really is. It’s upbeat alt-rock disguised at black metal. It’s what Queens of the Stone Age would sound like if they moved to Norway and started worshipping the devil. It’s a Kvelertak record from a different dimension. And it’s fucking cool. I’ve played those three tracks more than anything else in the past few months since I discovered them, that's how strong their hold is.
So it’s a bit sad that this epic build-up and subsequent fun doesn’t last forever. The first four tracks are by far the best and really define The Wiccan, because after some middling sameness, “Lucifer’s Child” and “Doom” completely ditch what they’ve been showing off so far and see the band transforming into some sort of psychedelic doom group - a look that doesn’t exactly fit them.
It’s an unfortunate note to end on, as the songs perfectly show the band’s weirdness without any of the fun. Although it doesn’t fully realize its potential, The Wiccan is still a wickedly fun album packed with ridiculously fun riffs and the type of joyful, upbeat rhythm that black metal usually tries to stay away from.