Review by Greg on July 6, 2023.
Schizophrenic death/thrash fans and obscure (or outright invented) word lovers unite, Hellwitch is back! With their 3rd full-length in almost 35 years of activity, the release schedule is arguably the only field where the Florida underground cult act ever took it slow, as all of their material can be put under the umbrella of hyperfast spastic, jarring tech, most notably on the odd debut Syzygial Miscreancy, not to mention their endless streak of minor releases over the years.
Unsurprisingly, Annihilational Intercention mostly picks up where its predecessor, the lethal comeback Omnipotent Convocation, left off 14 years earlier, with a more modern approach to the same principles that made the band so unique in the hearts of many. The lineup is almost the same, with the only abandonment of the inoxidable drummer Joe Schnessel – but Brian Wilson, apart from having his CV permanently ruined by his appearance in Thrash Or Die, is a more than worthy replacement. Main man Pat Ranieri is also simply on fire, not having aged a day since the previous LP, still letting out those almost trademark shrill, visceral screams with no difficulty whatsoever. He and partner in crime J.P. Brown slice through these ~40 minutes with their mystifying riffs and no less over-the-top leadwork.
The album is off to a strong start, also. The first three tracks are pretty much the whole LP in a nutshell, showing a band with next to no interest towards the progresses made in the last four decades and just churning out their trademark version of the genre like no one else. Opener 'Solipsistic Immortality' might already set up the new world record for the most breakneck tempo changes ever shoehorned in a single song. 'Megalopalypytic Confine' (yep, I'm copy-pasting there) amusingly enough starts with an intro that sounds somewhat halfway between a callback to 'Viral Exogence' and the 'Charge' stadium song, before offering another compendium of buzzing riffs, technical drums and hysterical vocals. A personal highlight of mine has to be 'Epochal Cessation', if only for its groovy staccato riif coming halfway through that shouldn't really work, but actually breaks out of the constant beating in an excellent way.
Arguably, Annihilational Intercention doesn't leave the listener much to shout along or even remember, but honestly Hellwitch's music was never 'accessible' in any possible interpretation of the word (as if you wouldn't have expected from those titles, right?). I just feel a bit overwhelmed but its whole content, and possibly underwhelmed by their namesake song, which appeared as the short banger in the middle, but then wasted too much time in the middle. While we're at it, I find it incredible that it wasn't re-recorded from one of their obscure 163 demo tapes, although some old material is still present – the concluding trio 'Antropophagi', 'At Rest', and 'Torture Chamber' was dug up from the Antropophagi demo (although the last mentioned reached as far back as '86 cassette Transgressive Sentience) and has finally been made available to a public wider than only tape hunters and collectors. Especially 'Torture Chamber' shows up its age since it sounds like the sociopath brother of 'Hit The Lights' – a demented, yet primitive thrash scorcher. Not exactly the finale I'd expected, but a nice addition nonetheless.
Given the extremely dilated waiting times between LPs, a new Hellwitch full-length is always an epochal (pun not intended) happening. It's safe to say that if Omnipotent Convocation never did much to you, or if you didn't find anything of value even on the much-lauded Syzygial Miscreancy, Annihilational Intercention won't do anything to change your mind. This is a group of musicians that carved their own space in extreme metal's history and pretty much never strayed far from it. But for all the fans disseminated around the globe, your favourite band is back with full force.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10480