Huntress – Spell Eater


Review by Jason Guest

Recently signed to Napalm Records, California’s Huntress have been causing quite the stir, and mainly for two reasons. The first is mouthpiece Jill Janus. Being a scantily-clad witch in a metal band will inevitably garner much attention and threaten to overshadow the music, which is the second reason for the high interest in Huntress. The band’s first single, ‘Eight of Swords’, has been receiving much acclaim for one simple reason: it’s a powerful, melodic and catchy metal tune with more hooks than the cloakroom at an annual Wicca conference. Witchcraft, paganism, the occult, the devil: welcome ingredients for any metal album. But getting the recipe right? Therein lays the challenge. And it appears that among the dark arts that inform Huntress, the successful mastery of composition and content is another art the band appears to have conquered. With their simple, straight-to-the-point structured approach, the compositions are solid from front to back.

After a quick grab-‘em-by-the-throat introduction – usually a riff accompanied by tumbling drums or a melodic dual-guitar passage – Janus’s roaring and melodic invocations are upon us. It’s more than apparent that Spell Eater has been laboured over to retain that divine spark that called forth its creation and to give each track room to breathe and take shape. With vocals ranging from King Diamond/Rob Halford high-pitched wails to banshee screams to throaty roars from the depths of hell, it’s also apparent that Janus wants to be recognised for her vocal capabilities. Though she is undeniably remarkable – her four-octave range has been utilised and coloured to great effect throughout – Janus appears to be singing, screaming or wailing away as if endeavouring to prove her vocal capacities too heavily,  sometimes to the detriment of the song. Thus, Spell Eater could easily be mistaken for the ‘Jill Janus Project’ featuring four other blokes, indeed, any four blokes, but those four blokes – bassist Eric Harris (ex-Skeletonwitch), drummer Carl Wierzbicky, and guitarists Blake Meahl and Ian Alden – pack the kind of punch that shows they’re not prepared to be relegated to a merely supportive role. Because of the musicians’ backgrounds in metal, Spell Eater exudes many characteristics of traditional heavy metal – check Maiden-esque ‘Aradia’ – and is laced with elements of both black and thrash metal in the tremolo-picked riffs and the dark, occult themes. Meahl’s lead-work is remarkable, delivered in short bursts in keeping with the get-in-and-out-quickly approach. And Wierzbicky’s drumming is a master class in playing what the song needs, colouring them with fills and flourishes where they demand. Nope, Huntress is a band, a tight and focussed unit with the almighty riff at its core and well-crafted songs as its body.

Spell Eater should dispel even the vaguest of notions that Huntress is just another female-fronted band exploiting her euphemisms for recognition. Huntress has no need for such gimmicks. In plonking their near-naked vocalist at the front and centre of every promo pic, Huntress are inviting the challenge. It’s the music that’ll ensure that Huntress last longer than a cursory glance over their promo photos because Spell Eater is a contender for the Best Debut Album of 2012.

8 out of 10

Click here to read Jason’s interview with Jill Janus

Track Listing:

  1. Spell Eater
  2. Senicide
  3. Sleep And Death
  4. Snow Witch
  5. Eight Of Swords
  6. Aradia
  7. Night Rape
  8. Children
  9. Terror
  10. The Tower