Poland's Witchmaster is easily one of the most revered names in the Black Metal underworld. Initially from Zielona Gore, but currently located in London, UK, the group's brand of Black Metal and Thrash Metal has been rapidly developing since their debut full-length album Violence & Blasphemy dropped in 2000. But for a band that has existed as long as this one has, there is very little in the line of studio recordings to show for it, really. Up to this point, there have only been a total of four full-length efforts (the latest having been 2009's Trucizna), two EPs, just as many demos, a split in 2004, as well as a handful of compilations. Five years after their most recent album have passed, and the only new release was the 2012 ?mier? strictly limited seven-inch vinyl EP through Witching Hour Productions. However, for 2014, Witchmaster breaks their silence and presents the long awaited fifth full-length effort, Antichristus Ex Utero, the first to feature the drumming skills of Inferno (Azarath, Behemoth) following the departure of Basti (Spinal Cord) in 2013. But does this new effort end up the new material fans have been waiting for, or is this one that is destined to get lost in the ever growing cesspool that is the Black/Thrash genre?

Like their previous offerings, Antichristus Ex Utero does run the gambit a bit with their established style, but isn't varied too much to let the point of their music slip away. The title track introduces a tight Thrash Metal foundation to the drumming and speed, while the riffs often tread into both worlds with most hooks behind the vocals in the main verses carrying a subtle Black Metal presence until the end of said bar. Of course there are some steady blast beat driven bridges that play up the modern day approach of that later genre quite well, being the only truly obvious departure from the Thrash-heavy roots, unlike "Fire Starts from the Mouth" which kicks right off with early Nordic Black Metal that isn't quite frosted over. Instead the tighter guitar work and hazy atmosphere of the recording itself carries an infectious fast pace groove that is hard not to get wrapped up in, even as it smoothly transitions into more blasting drums with enough adrenaline to the riffs that make the fairly stable performance come off a bit more chaotic than it actually is.

But then you have the early Venom-esque tracks like "Black Leather" to contend with. There's a steady Black Metal presence in spots, but for the most part it's a fast, two-step fuelled experience with more blasting in spots that carry an interesting dual-layering vocal approach that lends a slightly sickening, yet all around inhuman touch to the performance that ends ups surprisingly hard to shake off, especially after the ritualistic drum patterns that come into play towards the end. "She Said Red" actually has more of a Speed Metal attitude behind it, which completely plays up the sinister environment perfectly. The guitars may not be as sharp as one would hope to carry the Black Metal sound with, but there's no denying that a spiteful, almost venomous vibe exists the deeper in you get. Fast riffs, strong bass lines, and drums that seem just slightly slower in comparison thanks to the bass kicks in order to maintain the consistent grooves throughout the highly addicting composition of hooks and unbridled rage. All of this is carried into "Demon of Obliteration" with a far more commanding atmosphere, making damn sure you obey with some additional Death Metal elements at work.

While the Death Metal input works in "Demon of Obliteration", it doesn't always work through the rest of the album. "Master of Confusion" dabbles in that genre as well, but more in the vein of Cannibal Corpse: Rich in crushing grooves and guttural vocals that are met with some blackened riffs and additional raspy vocals that sound a bit weak, as well as unnecessary, really. The song is a huge departure from what was established already, and what happens to come next, making this one more of a burdening throwback to the underground sound of the style that, though not actually a bad song, just in no way needs to exist on this recording, especially given the Crossover Thrash two-step fuelled "Caricature of Humanity" and the more upbeat aggression presented.

One of the big perks behind Antichristus Ex Utero stems from the production quality. The music sounds rich and caters perfectly to every atmosphere without caving into an overly raw or completely sterilized digital output. There is some analog elements at work that give the music some edge it undoubtedly needs to sound anywhere near as good as it does here, but having such a strong bass guitar presence is another good choice, not to mention Inferno's drumming contributions adding a little more substance to this already full sounding experience that becomes the perfect middle ground between the aforementioned worlds.

While the number of releases for Witchmaster have been fairly scarce over the years, this is a band that really prides itself on quality over quantity, something that shows no better than it does on this brand new release. Antichristus Ex Utero is a superb exploration through the years of the Black Metal and Thrash Metal style coupling, all the while dabbling in other styles that work out a lot more than they do fail rather hard. There's no denying "Master of Confusion" ends up the black sheep of the recording (pun not intended) and, really, it could have been left off and had little impact to the final product overall. But, if you're a fan of Witchmaster, or just enjoy the genre itself, Antichristus Ex Utero is an album you won't soon want to walk away from.