Who said walking the left-hand path couldn't be so wickedly epic and brutal?
Portland's satanic speed metal warlocks Bewitcher know the score, churning out blackened riffs soaked in nostalgia and dripping with evil, and melting faces coast to coast with reckless abandon for years now.
Frontman and guitarist M. von Bewitcher caught up with Metal Injection to dive into their new album Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (their first under Century Media Records), their relationship with California's Night Demon, Portland's heavy music scene, plans on kicking every ass on tour and their history – and love – for playing heavy metal at the speed of Satan.
On Adapting to COVID-19
I mean, when you're that used to (performing live) and it's that big a part of your existence, learning to do without it has definitely been a process. But we're also kind of studio geeks and we like to focus on other aspects of the band too. Live shows are the most important thing for me personally. But getting the music together, working on new stuff, there's so much that goes into putting an album together with the artwork and the layouts and the marketing crap that goes on behind the scenes. So we've been pretty busy with it and just trying to keep focused on keeping the band as active as possible.
On New Album & Record Label
We put our usual pressure on ourselves to kind of top ourselves every time. The last record was a little more ambitious than the first one. So this one needed to be even better. As far as like the label goes, it was just the business end of it that was like the biggest change. It was just more to do. There's more emails coming in constantly. There's interviews to do. There's a lot of sort of levels of, I guess, bureaucracy, I could say. So that's a change. But I think we're pretty used to it now. It's been par for the course for the last several months now.
I mean, obviously the timing could be a little bit closer to maybe when touring comes back (to release the album). We've been out of the game as far as like recording and new albums go for a couple of years now. So it's kind of a perfect time for people that are looking for new Bewitcher stuff. Here we are two years later, here it comes.
On Working with Night Demon
We started out as fans of Night Demon when the first EP came out, you know? I think it was probably 2013 or 2014 right around when we started. So to be able to work with those guys the way we have? Obviously that tour that got canceled from last year would have been just amazing. But the managerial relationship with Jarvis (Night Demon's frontman/bassist), I mean, it was just kind of like he was helping us out when we needed to kind of boost the band up a little bit. And then with Armand (Night Demon's guitarist), he's just such a great recording mind and has got that ear for production and knows what we're going for. So it's been very cool to be able to use those guys in our own world and be a part of that.
On Portland's Metal Scene
When Bewitcher started playing there was already a pretty strong scene. It's funny though, because it's never like one genre or anything like that. It's just a bunch of different bands that are really good doing their thing and so eclectic and so weird. I always say it's like mini-scenes that kind of crossover with each other once in a while, like clicks almost. Portland's a smaller city, it's not very big. You get bands that just sort of do their thing together once in a while and then they go off on their separate ways. So it's cool, but it's different from your regular scene, I suppose.
On Early Introduction to Metal
I think there's a couple of different phases. So like the first one that got me before I even started playing guitar was AC/DC live, hearing "Hell's Bells". The opening riff and just how evil it sounded, that guitar tone was so big and menacing. Then Kill Em All and Slayer's Show No Mercy. I think when I got my first Mercyful Fate album, I think it was like Time when it came out like 94. I'd like to play video games and just play that in the background. That's the stuff that sucks you in and kind of gets you going.
On Finding Their Satanic Speed Sound
I think the settling happened in the bands before this. Like it's all about that compromise of, OK, this guy wants to do this and this guy wants to do this, so let's do some sort of combination. Bewitcher is like the first, I think, purely distilled band that I've ever been in and that I was ever able to start that was sort of what I wanted to do initially when I was a kid and when I first started playing heavy metal. It was like, this is the band I wanted to be! It took 10 plus years to kind of get that going. I feel like the combination of what we bring to the table is just sort of the natural influences that have always been there. And they work together.
Under The Witching Cross was very much the album that was like testing the boundaries. The first album was very much what it was. It was just this thing, satanic speed metal all the way. Witching Cross was like, let's play with some different tempos here and there and let's play with some different riff ideas and stuff like that and see what works for us. Now we're kind of like settling into our own sound a little bit more. I don't think that journey is over yet. I think we're still going to be figuring that out for a few more years or whatever. But I think we're getting to a point where it's like a little more our own thing, rather than trying to sound like this band or that band.
On Satanic Imagery/Mysticism in Lyrics
I always go back to this Cronos interview where he's talking about you playing this bulldozer music, and if you had lyrics that were about puppies and sunshine and rainbows it wouldn't really go together. So you got to sing about some stuff and the contents have got to fit the music, you know? That's kind of the best way to go about it. Of course there's this connection with magic and witchcraft and all the stuff that has been kind of a lasting influence in my life.
Just going back several years and incorporating that into the music, that kind of gives it an extra level or layer of depth and sort of like that mysterious kind of vibe that black metal has that some of these other metal genres kind of revel in. And to me it's the ultimate embodiment of what rock and roll is supposed to be. It's rebellious, it's a fuck you attitude and it's follow your own path at all costs.
On Bringing the Energy on Stage
I think when you're growing up the things you remember most are not just the music, but it's also the visuals that went along with it. So I think for us the impact was always like, OK, if we're going to do live shows let's make it visually stimulating as well. We've always, and even in previous bands, had been very energetic and very active on stage. We really try to put the energy that we feel into the show so that people watching us can get a taste of that as well. And that just raises the energy level of the show. I think if you're just standing there staring at your pedals or whatever it just doesn't come off the same way. And especially with this music you have to be into it all the way.
I think that ideally (touring) will start happening by the end of this year. There's talk, there's rumblings, there's rumors and innuendo and so forth. So we'll see how that works out. But yeah, hopefully it won't be too much longer because it'd be nice by the time this record comes out to only have like a couple of months of downtime before we can really get out there and do some damage.