It’s already shaping up to be a brilliant year for Witch Fever. After opening for emo legends My Chemical Romance back in May and delivering one of Reading Festival 2022’s best sets, – which NME described as “the future of heavy music” – the Manchester punk quartet are now looking to close out 2022 the only way they know how: with a dose of ear-splitting, blaring anger.
Their debut album ‘Congregation’ kicks off with ‘Blessed Be Thy’, which snarls into life with a burst of seething, grunge-influenced guitar. The track is named after a hymn that lead vocalist Amy Walpole used to sing at weekly services while growing up as part of a Charismatic Church – a branch of Christianity that worships the miracles and modern day workings of the Holy Spirit. In the hands of Witch Fever, however, ‘Blessed Be Thy’ is reimagined as a vicious rallying cry against an oppressive religious establishment: “A slow decline, the cursed divine,” leers Walpole, who left the church at 16. “You’re dumb to think I would choose this.”
This anti-church sentiment is a motif that courses through the entire album. Title track ‘Congregation’ laments the unhealthy grip that many churchgoers are trapped in (‘Wracked in guilt / The whole congregation”), while ‘Market’ is a attack on communion that’s rife with twisted, spiritual lyricism (“The flesh and bone the body and wine, Drink it up oh child of mine”). ‘Bloom’, meanwhile, explores escaping a religion that represses personality, and its stifling imagery goes a long way towards explaining why Witch Fever’s music sounds like the unleashing of years of pent-up rage. “They won’t take no for an answer / As if they ever fucking ask,” roars Walpole in rousing punk anthem ‘Sour’, which calls listeners to action with an urgent chant: “Yeah, we incite this violence / Nothing ever changed in silence.”
Combined with ‘Congregation’’s riotous energy, these confrontational lyrics cement the album as an essential punk listen – Witch Fever’s rage at our broken institutions is righteous, and delivered with confidence, feeling and vitality. But it’s not all fire and fury: Witch Fever serve up a one-two punch at the end of the record that hints at what else they have left in their sonic arsenal. The aptly named ‘Slow Burn’ may be the album’s most subtle track – drifting along on a measured, expanding guitar twang – but it sets up ’12’ to close out proceedings with one last furious, full-blooded scream.
It’s hard to envision a future where Witch Fever’s debut album doesn’t win them hordes of moshing fans: ‘Congregation’ is a fiery, relentless punk blowout that pulls no punches against priests, patriarchy and those who abuse power from the top of our society.
- Release date: October 21
- Record label: Music For Nations