Review: Witchskull ‘The Serpent Tide’

The motivation for me covering this album was undoubtedly The Shaman colleague Rob Bryant‘s review of the band’s 2020 album A Driftwood Cross where he told us to ‘believe the hype, this is killer’. The fact that they also hit the number one spot in his end-of-year Top Ten was also a deciding factor.

Witchskull 'The Serpent Tide' Artwork
Witchskull ‘The Serpent Tide’ Artwork

Witchskull are a trio from Canberra, Australia who formed in 2014 with The Serpent Tide marking their third album on Lee Dorrian‘s Rise Above Records label and fourth overall. The band comprise of Marcus De Pasquale (vocals/guitar), Tony McMahon (bass) and Joel Green on drums. The album has been a long time coming with only the band’s cover of AC/DC’s Sin City for the Magnetic Eye Records 2021 sampler to satisfy fans in the meantime.

Tyrian Dawn starts and you are struck by the soaring vocal style with its nods to Ronnie James Dio and Trouble’s Eric Wagner. Musically its absolutely massive especially in the riff department, there are no murky stoner vibes to be found here, so if you were planning on lighting up a fatty you’ll be left a little disappointed. Best leave those types of shenanigans for Bongzilla eh, this is hardy beer drinking doom. On a serious note, it’s along the lines of Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General and thus makes for an excellent crunching opener.

Obsidian Eyes recalls Soundgarden with amazing Chris Cornell style wails while musically there are hints of Kyuss’ groovy desert influenced stoner rock too. It sounds like it was lifted straight from the ‘90s and in fact I was racking my brains when the underrated Sugartooth’s Sold My Fortune suddenly sprung to mind. Needless to say, this is not a fatuous tribute to that decade, it is instead a belting track that made me almost tearful with nostalgia.

an absolute beast of a record…

Sun Carver, the album’s longest track at nearly six minutes, is less immediate than its predecessors. You could even say progressive and ‘dynamic’ reminding me as it does of Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass, though give it a couple of spins and you will be rewarded for your patience. An incredible and perfectly performed piece. Bornless Hollow again tips its hat to Soundgarden with sounds approaching classic Badmotorfinger territory while The Serving Ritual demonstrates an Iron Maiden influence but one that is far less bombastic and over the top thanks to the aggression that has been injected into the proceedings.

The Serpent Tide was released as a single and I can hear why. Man is this infectious, from the off this number gets you straight for the jugular and does not fuck about. Imagine all the slow parts of Electric Funeral, its Sabbathian goodness is a positive joy to behold. If this doesn’t get you pumped, then I don’t think there is much hope for you. A personal favourite on the album.

Misery’s Horse should definitely have you recalling Trouble, especially during the faster sections that are pure Psalm 9 and seeing as I mentioned Eric Wagner (RIP) at the start of the review, this makes perfect sense. Immense. Rune Of Thorn is thunderous heavy metal that makes one think of Swedes Grand Magus but with none of the cheesy Manowar tendencies that make that band such a hard sell for me. It just about veers on the right side of ‘traditional metal’ and concludes the album in a suitably epic fashion.

It looks like Rob was right to be so enthused about these guys, they are tremendous. Strong melodies, excellent musicianship and a surprisingly diverse sound make for an absolute beast of a record. Recommended listening.

Label: Rise Above Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills