THE WITCH HAMMER
Original Issue: 1993 Dorobo (Dorobo 003) - Part One of the Witch Trilogy
Margot-meter: 4.5 moons / 5
01 - Tolkorn
02 - Waltz of the Midwives
03 - The Witch Hammer
04 - Smell of Nightfall
05 - A Midnight Mass
06 - Wolfzahn
07 - Poena Damni
08 - Trespassing the Gates
09 - The Darkened Psalm
10 - Totenheer
11 - Burkhardt of Worms
12 - Flight of the Screech Owls
13 - Warm as Blood Beneath the Clouds
14 - In the Path of Walpurga's Ashes
Shinjuku Thief were a formation that searched for their own style, growing closer to soundtrack possibilities than normal dark ambient. Although ‘ The Witch Hammer’ is classified under gothic industrial, there is nothing here resembling any of the Orkus’ bands material defined by those same words. ‘The Witch Hammer’ is constructed as a homage both to the 20s silent expressionist films as to 15th century Horror, therefore the ‘gothic’ definition – definitely not the one we are currently used to. It is also part one of the Witch’s Trilogy, inspired by the medieval manual for witch-finders by Kramer & Sprenger, ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, also presented in three parts.
It was followed in 1995 by ‘The Witch Hunter’ and ‘The Witch Haven’ in 2002. Many of the themes of the songs have extremely clear references through their names, and all are united under the cloak of a dark night. Perhaps ‘The Witch Hammer’ can be considered as a fictional soundtrack for Walpurguis Night – the eve between the 30th of April and the 1st of May, also know as Beltane. One of those night when the limits between our well defined and human populated earth become blurry and the supernatural brewing and unexpected can take place. From the light sound of chanting in ‘A Midnight Mass’ to the dark ritual in ‘Totenheer’, magic, fantasy and obscure images are developed in their music.
The compositions are created by clear notes of diverse types of instruments, normally full of longing and darkness. The search for a unique atmosphere is the target, for its creation there are possibilities of using choruses, voices, percussion, postindustrial landscapes and grandiose chimes and clashes. Extended bases, martial sounds and brass instruments are not shunned; and many samplers are introduced in a non-obtrusive manner, making numerous songs almost filled with a life of their own. There are also diverse changes in each song – constructing a new speed over a ominous introduction, then taking the listener back into the brooding state where initiated.
The styles that define ‘The Witch Hammer’ are, therefore, extremely diverse in their individuality, yet united under their extreme visual approach. ‘The Darkened Psalm’ introduction has nothing to envy numerous current martial industrial acts, many songs flirt with neoclassical touches, whilst ritual and dark ambient layers are easily found in others. Perhaps the most remarkable song of the record is ‘Waltz of the Midwives’, with a subtle and delicate introduction that explodes into a cackling and violent twisted version of itself, to then be covered by the dark menacing atmosphere around it. One can almost see the camera focus moving from one image to the other...
The best option for Shinjuku Thief’s record is to lay in a darkened room on a windy evening, after a good fantasy read, and let yourself stray into the world they have so accurately created through a painting of sounds. There is no need for the film that could accompany these sound for their presentation of such cinematographic songs make them completely unnecessary. No doubt you are in for a evil, cold, sometimes hopeful, sometimes blind and vengeful voyage through darkness.
Isis - Heathen Harvest - March 2007