WITCHHAMMER – 1487 (15th anniversary edition)


Label: Lydmuren
Release Date: October 25, 2005
Original Release Date: March 1, 1990

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It’s well known that Norway is well-represented in the Extreme Metal genres, but in fact the Norwegian Metal scene isn’t at all just about blast beats, discordance, and a-choir synths. Some two decades ago, Norway displayed a truly fine scene of classic Heavy/Power/Thrash Metal, led by classic bands like Conception, Artch, and the highly underrated Witchhammer.

Quoting from the cover sleeve, 1487 was originally released in March 1990 as a self-financed release. As the band toured massively, both prior to and after the release, the limited pressing quickly sold out and the album became a much sought-after item in the blooming underground. The band was lucky enough to get one of their live shows covered by a Norwegian TV station, which created further interest about the band, but sadly the good times didn’t last – the band broke up after having recorded the follow-up album, and remained silent until 2000, which finally saw the release of The Lost Tapes, reviewed here at Metal Express Radio.

The tapes from the last recording sessions had been lost after the break-up, and the album was never released in its original form. The Lost Tapes once again created interest for the band, which soon got together again for a few, selected live appearances. Time went by and things went well, and the band is now fully active again -– playing live on a regular basis and soon planning to record a new full-length album. In the meantime, the band made this re-mastered 15th anniversary edition of 1487 for old and new fans to enjoy, and the album still sounds awesome.

The album opens with four of its strongest tracks, namely “Transylvania,” “Kill All In Sight,” “The Burning Court,” and “The Whore of Babylon.” These tracks feature most aspects of Witchhammer’s music – the speedy, Thrash-influenced riffs, a dark, almost Sabbath-esque Gregorian atmosphere, the precise, palm-muted leads, and Per Ståle Pettersen’s unique vocals.

His voice is far from that of a trained singer –- he’s at times brutally off-key, and there are probably those who have serious problems with his falsetto. Still, like for example King Diamond, Udo Dirkschneider, or Blackie Lawless do for their bands, the uniqueness in his voice helps give the band an identity, and it suits the music perfectly. Witchhammer isn’t about technical perfection -– although the band know their way around their instruments for sure –- but about atmosphere, feeling, and groove.

“Enola Gay” is next, and this may be the album’s best highlight. Based on speedy, yet simple, riffing, the track is among the album’s most melodic, and it features a nice lead and even a bass solo that is well-executed by Finn Chr. Gjerlaugsen. Actually, the track recalls of early Blind Guardian (Battalions of Fear, Follow the Blind) and this is a big compliment indeed. “All Hallow’s Eve” is another gem, highlighted by some very powerful, mid-tempo, guitar riffs. “My Execution” continues at a mid-to-up-tempo pace, and also includes huge choirs to extend the soundscape further, giving the track a cold and almost progressive edge. “By This Axe I Rule” is more straightforward again, before the symphonic elements are back in “Curiosity About Death,” which is yet another very strong track. The slow, rhythmic pace combined with a haunting melody makes it a very good way to end the album, and the track definitely has that “epic” feeling to it, although onlyclicking in at a mere 4 minutes.

Without a single bad track , and a few true killers to boot, this is indeed a classic album, making Witchhammer in the year 2006 definitely a band to watch. Yet to see is if the current line-up of Pettersen on vocals, Tor Erik Håkonsen and Morten Skute on guitars, Gjerlaugsen on bass, and Jan Erik Eide on drums can manage to come up with another album of this format again, but if someone could do it, it has to be these guys.


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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