Review Summary: Really accessible ride back to the roots of Hard Rock/Metal, with enough dark atmosphere to impede visibility.
The mainstreaming of Witchcraft is a top to bottom success. And, If you’ve already heard this Swedish outfit’s debut outing, then you’re well aware of just how far these guys have come in only a few short years. Contrast the first record against this, the third, and you can easily decipher which elements are integral to their genetic makeup, and why they’ve flourished so quickly. The songs, talent and unique songwriting approach were all there from the start, although left in a raw, unrefined, and maybe, casually indifferent state. I haven’t heard their sophomore effort yet, so I don’t know how much a second go ’round in the studio was responsible for what we hear on ’The Alchemist’.
But, after hearing this most recent offering several times now, I’m inclined to say that these guys are ready for the world stage. And, the fact that this band isn’t, at this very moment, already as huge as media-darlings, ‘Wolfmother‘, is a travesty of musically mastodonic proportion. The album is just absolutely stacked with catchy riffs, memorable vocal melodies and enough dark atmosphere to impede visibility. The instrumentation is subtly understated, while still hitting upon a formula which is largely progressive. And, the recording features at least three tracks which are primed and ready for mass consumption. The material here is as equally and easily accessible as the output from the aforementioned, big-name band‘s debut effort. And, these comparisons with ’Wolfmother’ go deeper than just mere approachability. Both bands are steeped in the very roots of Hard Rock/Metal.
If you’ve never heard Witchcraft before, you’d swear that you have. Witchcraft doesn’t merely sound ‘retro’. They literally sound like some late 60’s/early 70’s British Hard Rock band that you’re already well acquainted with. As soon as you put on ‘The Alchemist’, you’re struck with a sense of familiarity. “Where do I know these songs from?” This album delivers like an recording that should already be in your collection, and well worn at that. That is, if its customary for you to get down and groove to stuff which can be roughly categorized as ‘Progressive Psychedelic Hard Rock’ But, Witchcraft’s retro-nostalgic sound isn’t something that comes off as novelty. Not in the least. The band plays like they are genuinely dedicated to the path they’ve chosen. And, they do sound incredibility adept at cultivating the atmospheres and nuances of a recording from that golden era of Hard Rock. Much of the effect is achieved through the use of vintage instruments and recording equipment. This gives the band an overall lo-fi sound, which they compensate for by upping the amperage and playing quite thunderously. While being a band with a rather sparse and primitive approach, the band fills up the body of this recording with the conservative deployment of organ, piano, mellotron, saxophone and other obscure percussion instruments.
But, the guitar is what dominates here. And, the tone that this guitarist achieves sounds like some hybrid between Cream, Sabbath, and Wishbone Ash. As soon as the first note is struck, the listener is transported back to that first era of Hard Rock/Metal. And, what a sweet trip it is. After you’ve embarked upon it a few times you might come to the conclusion, like myself, that this particular album would have been a huge hit back in that era. Overall, I think that Witchcraft’s brand of musically understated, retro-reverence is a very welcome change of pace, especially in this modern, musical environment where everything is overproduced and way over-the-top. As crazy as it may sound, Witchcraft’s music does come across as something fresh and vital, while also giving the impression of being significantly back-dated. Think ‘The White Stripes’ if they added a second guitarist, practiced the occult, and dropped acid daily.
I do anticipate a cross-genre appeal for these guys. I can see this stuff being equally appealing to both the Alt-Rock and Doom-Metal sets. As well as having an impact on fans of Progressive Rock. Like stated above, this is a very accessible record and will most likely appeal to more than just its target audience. The first six tracks are of average length, and I could easily picture hearing half of them on the radio. They’re really that good. But, the seventh track, a fourteen minute epic bearing the name of the album, is an absolute masterpiece of progressive folk and doom, just absolutely exuding with a sense of melancholy and despair. There’s plenty of stylistic shifts, heavy riffs and progressive instrumental bits flowing on this one. The atmosphere that is conjured here is reminiscent of the cover to the first Black Sabbath album. So, close your eyes and be transported to a somber, rain-soaked forest where the lady in black is closing in on you.