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Except for adopting the ever-popular corpse-paint makeup look, Sweden's Bewitched bucks all the usual trends of Scandinavian metal, avoiding the prevalent death, black, and Viking strains to embrace a retro style of thrash metal that was popular in the early to mid-'80s. In fact, some might even label the group — founded by vocalist Vargher (Marcus Norman), guitarist Blackheim (Anders Nyström), bassist Wrathyr (Kristofer Olivius), and drummer Reaper in 1995 — a pre-thrash proposition, more akin to the speed metal pioneered by bands like Venom and Exciter. Quickly signing with French independent label Osmose, the quartet unleashed its first opus, Diabolical Desecration, in March 1996, then hit the road across Europe with Ancient Rites and Sacramentum. The all-covers Encyclopedia of Evil EP (featuring tributes to Venom, Mercyful Fate, and more) preceded their second full-length, the critically acclaimed Pentagram Prayer of the following year, but Bewitched almost stumbled to a halt when Reaper and Blackheim quit, the latter so he could focus full-time on his doom/goth metal project Katatonia. Eventually choosing to carry on regardless, Bewitched replaced them with Guillotine guitarist Spider and drummer Stormlord (Ulf Andersson) before starting a German tour, during which the band recorded 1998's live Hell Comes to Essen. At the Gates of Hell from 2000 and 2002's Rise of the Antichrist (featuring new guitarist Hellfire) arrived in due time, and led to further international touring, including first-time visits to the U.S. and Mexico.