Rare is the metal band that doesn't paste a gravely serious tone on its leather-clad sleeve -- which can be interpreted as a defensive measure against outsiders' criticism for being too unhip or entrenched in overtly angry or fantastical subject matter. But when a proudly heavy-as-hell outfit stomps down metal lane in clunky boots, with chains clanking and tongue firmly in cheek, it draws a double-take from fans and foes alike. Enter Witchery, a death/thrash supergroup of sorts (sporting members of Mercyful Fate, Satanic Slaughter, the Haunted, and Séance), whose debut Restless and Dead plays fast and loose with metal clichés -- graveyards, skeletons, witches, grim reapers, exorcisms -- putting them next to fellow funny guys Strapping Young Lad (parodic metal mockery), Type O Negative (poker-faced self-flagellation), and Cradle of Filth (punny and poetic indulgences). Oh yeah, and the album is endlessly entertaining and just plain fun to listen to, sounding slapdash and off-the-cuff, with smart riffs a-blazing, courtesy of guitarists Richard Corpse and Jensen, and nicely matched with the mid-rangey screech of vocalist Toxine, who raps deliberately cheese-encrusted lines such as "The reaper/I'm coming to get you/The reaper/Prepare to die!" You'll either shrug Witchery off as a joke or embrace the group's slap-happy, '80s-influenced, Slayer-derived bloody thrash feast with a touch of chilly Swedish death, and sprout ghoulish devil horns as you furiously bang your head to "Into Purgatory," "All Evil," "Witchery," "The Reaper," and the title track. While Restless and Dead isn't exactly groundbreaking (or as well-conceived as the band's third record, Symphony for the Devil), it's more of a fun, intoxicating clank-of-beer-cans toast to its riff-happy thrash predecessors. Purveyors of fine metal should easily be able to dig into this catchy and spontaneous-sounding record, especially appreciating the group's refreshing and prevalent use of its funny bone instead of a gore-splattered battleaxe.
AllMusic Review by John Serba