It was obvious from BURNING WITCHES' 2017 debut album that the Swiss quintet were not in the business of mucking about. The traditional and power metal realms are absurdly overpopulated with bands that favor polish and slickness over rawness and aggression, but as they prove once again on "Dance With The Devil", this band rips like a rusty scalpel. As with all such things, it all comes down to the songs, and BURNING WITCHES have struck upon a brilliantly distinctive midpoint between European double-kick euphoria and a darker, heavily German-influenced strain of sinewy thrash, with everything delivered to support towering, epic melodies. New vocalist, Laura Guldemond, has added an extra dimension of idiosyncratic grit to a sound that is otherwise unchanged from 2018's "Hexenhammer", and thank Satan for that, because as diehard metalheads will know, you can never have too much of this sort of thing.
After the obligatory tense intro, "Lucid Nightmare" kicks open the swinging doors and goes directly for the jugular. As with the latest LOVEBITES album, you may find yourself feeling slightly ashamed for being surprised that an all-woman band can slam this hard, but this is merely business as usual for BURNING WITCHES, whose reputation for destructive live performances has arguably pushed them further than the records ever could. The title track, "Wings Of Steel", "Six Feet Underground", these are all freshly minted, pure metal anthems, but it's the band's visceral energy that lifts "Dance With The Devil" above at least 90 percent of comparable modern metal records. The finest songs here — and there is no discernible filler — are so epic and brutal that you have my permission to shed a tear: "Black Magic" is dark and dramatic, "Sea Of Lies" is imperious and cinematic, and a closing cover of MANOWAR's "Battle Hymn", featuring Ross The Boss on scorched-earth lead, makes vastly more sense than you might imagine.
A balls/ovaries-to-the-wall, flesh-flaying metal record that confirms the genre's timeless power and endless adaptability, "Dance With The Devil" also proves that BURNING WITCHES are a ferocious, formidable proposition. Your neck muscles will suffer.