Review Summary: Satan is amused
If there is one thing, more than anything that makes me smile is when you're listening to an album where you genuinely feel proud for
the artist. This is exactly the case with the new Witchcraft album, Legend.
Sweden is renowned for it’s plethora of successful metal bands, it is also known for, along with neighbouring countries to bring the darker side of music to the masses. Whether it be sprinkles of the Occult & Satanism or mythological tales harking back to the day of wooden shields, horned helmets and beer-guzzling brutes.
Witchcraft offer a strong Doom metal album that dabbles with common themes such as the supernatural, occult and expresses views about what the world has become. (A heads up: they’re not pleased!)
The strongest aspects of 'Legend' are the vocals and the general instrumentation; they play off each other in a boisterous manner. Soaring melodies push the vocals to meet its match, soothing verses tease the guitars to juxtapose the sonic recipe, delivering deep, grungy tones. The overall guitar tone is a thick, stoner-rock-esque (at times), doom sound with a dashing of 90's grunge. With nods toward Black Sabbath in simple yet highly satisfying riffing that can quickly escalate into a barrage of 'anthemic' riffing with hyperactive bass work. Furthermore, the guitar work on this album is a true joy to listen to, it isn’t rammed down your throat, it is there to be enjoyed. The guitars are crunchy when they're required to be. The melodies are never too complicated, they add the right amount of gloom and evoke the feeling of darkness which is central to the album's theme. The guitars just want to offer what they’ve got and make you nod your head, tap your fingers and feet along. At times they threaten to do more, whirling fret-work with abnormal time signatures that quickly drop back into what they do best: being unrelenting yet intricate & melodious.
The drumming on this album is a delight to listen to, everything about them is just right. The fills are good, they have ‘marching band’ breaks, where the drummer displays clever usage of timing. Moreover, they do not abuse the cymbals, there isn’t a constant crashing because they feel ‘they have to’, it feels like the musicians generally
write based on what they feel from the music and add nothing more nor nothing less and boy, does it show.
The vocals on this album are excellent, menacing, haunting and smooth. They deliver the softness, the warmth of Legend
; it sucks you in and really doesn’t let you go. A small yet minor touch is the natural accent of Magnus’ voice; the Swedish accent and general pronunciation of words adds to the whole vibe of the record, it wouldn’t feel right without it. His range is firmly rooted in the lower end of the spectrum but it’s soft; delivering some truly ice-melting moments. It makes you feel like you’re in a wooden cabin somewhere in Europe, witnessing the first snow-fall. Although, vocally, 'Legend' doesn’t allow complacency as the music forces Magnus to expand his voice to coarser tones bordering raspy, gruff shouts with a hefty injection of controlled melody. His voice never gets the better of him, it’s all under control and he's able to bend it to his will. There are moments where his voice reaches higher pitches, they mostly sit in the background; adding that extra layer.
is a beast, full of pride much like the bird of prey on it’s cover; it's majestic, mysterious and sly.
At times this slyness can get the better of the listener, creating moments which do not feel natural. As I mentioned earlier, that feeling of letting the music tell the story doesn't always
apply; there is some human intervention. For example, throughout the record there are quite a few momentous build ups to choruses with powerful vocals, which is fine, when it works. Sometimes it seems that the song may calm or take us back down into the hypnotic rhythm. However on occasion, there is some jerky transitioning into these climatic verses & choruses. It completely takes you out of the music and throws you off course. It’s frustrating because if there is one thing 'Legend' does really well is the ‘calm before the storm’ method; mellow before chaos. It seems the storm always must follow, when it does not. Furthermore, 'Legend' is an album crafted for fans of this genre, this is clear in the music; specifically the vocals. Vocally this album is superb but isn't so accessible; Magnus’ voice offers power when power is needed, it offers tranquility most of the time and because of this people may find it too transparent, too thin. His voice has a strange textural tone. The only way I could describe it, is imagine a Swedish Lumberjack sitting around the fire with his children singing stories of ‘ye’ olde times’. Mesmerising & simplistic but not for everyone.
Regardless of the album's shortcomings, it manages to be more good than full of flaws. Take 'Legend’s' lyrical content as an example; it is well written, verses are thought out well, words don’t seem to clash at any point. The songs generally flow at a nice, even pace. Song structures also alternate from the normal: verse, chorus, verse, chorus pattern but it never really deviates too much. The album’s production is great, everything is clear and concise. The bass is audible and the instruments come together to create a harmonious sound, rather than creating noise; neither instrument is vying for centre stage.
Witchcraft offer a plateful that never seems too much, its just about right; it’s filling, tasteful but never unrefined. The album is full of tracks that all have personality, a sense of life and vibrancy; even with the dark content and occult undertones it never becomes overbearing nor off putting. In essence Legend
is a rock infused doom album for beginners, but at the core its heart beats for those truly invested in Witchcraft's honed sound.