Bands showing off their musical intersectionality is one of my absolute favorite things to discover. Artists who blur the line between genres and sounds are just the most interesting ones to listen to. You question what you’re listening to a bit, so you’re listening more attentively to the record. You just dig deeper and deeper to find the thing that explains the record or artist only to find yourself finding more and more that confuses you. The confusion may be a nice thing to have in this particular case, but it’s still there. France’s Witches are just such a band, and The Fates is possibly a great study into this particular acoustic phenomenon.
Witches is a four-piece metal outfit that’s been brutalizing ears since 1986. That may seem like a pretty long time for most folks. You would be forgiven if you haven’t heard of them before despite being a seemingly seminal band in thrash metal. From their inception until 2020, the band has released only 3 full-length albums. Until 1994’s 3.4.1, the band had only produced a handful of demos. From 1994 until 2007’s 7, Witches put out a single and another demo. Then 2 more EPs in 2015 and 2016, and now we have The Fates.
Since we’ve introduced all that, let’s talk about their sound. I think intersectional is really the best way to describe it. It’s a combo of concepts from thrash, death, and black metal, ending up as this very fast and evil sounding metal. If you combined thrash metal songwriting, death metal aesthetics, and black metal technicality, you’d have Witches. Certainly, a lot of bands have a sound that’s an amalgamation of various influences, but you rarely hear it displayed so nakedly like it is on The Fates.
While that may all sound like the delicious metal red meat you desperately need, my single criticism of the record might make at least a few of you pause. The problem isn’t that it doesn’t work. It does. But it’s the jack of all trades and master of none inverse. The entire record is razor-edged riffs, double bass rolls, and the thrash-death-black hybridized vocal style. It does not ever deviate from that. It’s just full steam ahead constantly. The band is certainly very proficient at creating this environment. But it gets exhausting. I still love this sound personally, but it’s jarring to the point of being a punishment.
After multiple playthroughs of The Fates, I can’t help but be reminded of Black Fast. Black Fast is a great little blackened thrash band that writes some killer songs and has a sound can be both fun and inviting if you’re into it. The band does a fantastic job at what they create, but what they create is pretty strict and uniform. Witches has a very similar goal in mind. The blackened thrash sound is pretty niche and not always easily replicated or built upon. The death/thrash/black hybrid they create incorporates even more ideas that have to be tightly held together. It’s a lot of fun for a bit, but it’s almost like eating an entire meal of dessert. It’s pure indulgence. If that’s what you’re looking for, then The Fates is perfect for you. There’s a time and place for all things, I think.
The Fates is available June 5 via Mighty Spell Records.