There are some problems unrelated to the music or the artists featured within I'd be remiss to not address right from the jump. This album is not available for sale on Amazon.com, though individual songs like "Coven of the Serpent's Eye" and "Abode of the Damned" are. The Planet X website allegedly offers it for free download, but the site has been domain blocked by DatPiff.com, while the actual album itself was removed due to a complaint by Russell Williams. I don't know what's going on or when it all went down, but I do know that "WitchHammer" was available commercially long enough for iTunes to recognize the CD and pull up song titles when I loaded it on my laptop.
The individual songs on Amazon which Vega X recycled on his "Global Warming" album may be an attempt to salvage the material from "WitchHammer" which wasn't in dispute. They may not stand as well out of context. "WitchHammer" is dark and gothic in the most literal sense, with an impending feeling of doom created largely through the production efforts of Amos the Ancient Prophet. The songs sample liberally from pop culture - such as "The Vampyre" borrowing from WarHammer's description of Count Manfred Von Carstein, and "Guardians of the Watchtower" borrowing from "The Prophecy" and its memorable starring performance by Christopher Walken. It may be a lack of clearance of these samples that led to the issues behind its removal online, but that's not established here and should only be considered wild speculation. Without watching the entire movie for the purpose of the review, I think "The Witch Hunters" samples from the film adaption of "Twins of Evil":
"The deaths of two young men within the last ten days, and each victim bearing the mark of the devil. This place has been accursed to the evil of some who abide here. But the signs are plain - God is calling on us who believe in his holy word to stamp out that evil! To seek out the devil worshippers, and to purify their spirits so they may find mercy at the seat of the Lord - BY BURNING THEM!!"
This sample sets up the heavy handed production of Amos well, and Vega X does his best to carry the theme forward lyrically. "Vatican assassin, snatching out your Adam's apple/then decapitate the Pope on the tabernacle/more sick style than the torture in the witch trials." X does have good lines here and there like "How many of you cowards will doubt me then, holding Alistair Crowley's head?" His flow is a bit of a challenge musically. It's as though someone decided to mix R.A. the Rugged Man with the Gravediggaz and Onyx - and while all of those elements may be good individually they aren't well met collectively. Vega's guttural flow seems caught in his epiglottis as he spits, screamed at the microphone in fits of rage, going on and off beat at will. It would almost be more interesting to hear his words sans beat, delivered like a spoken word emcee at a poetry slam.
Some of the songs find Vega X keeping his more eccentric tendencies vocally in check. "This is heavy metal Ozzy, Black Sabbath shit" raps X on the aptly titled "Black Sabbath," featuring guest appearances by his Planet X homies Guerilla Alliance and Macabean the Rebel. The scratched in samples of the song title on the hook are a nice touch, though I would have turned up the one of Method Man saying "motherfuckers" a bit more. "Coven of the Serpent's Eye" reminds me of Jedi Mind Tricks in a good way, and the cameos by Aztech and Relentless are the best of the whole short (25 minute) CD.
There's something to be said for "WitchHammer" thematically and musically, even if I can only abide Vega X's flow in small doses - though the presence of interludes throughout the album helps to break things up. Whatever reasons caused this album to be pulled are regrettable, because if Vega X is to develop into a higher caliber emcee, this release will certainly be the starting point. I don't know if he can change his current style though, nor if he's even willing to do so, and it's only fair to say that to him and his crew at Planet X it may be the vehicle they hitch their wagons to for success. It's certainly distinctive, but I think some listeners may find it off-putting. I respect the effort that went into it nonetheless. The verbiage doesn't need a lot of revision, but the delivery does need more precision.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: November 19th, 2013