Thursday, June 28, 2012

Witchcraft-re-issues-s/t, Firewood and the Alchemist


Metal Blade/Rise Above
2012 re-issues/originally released 2004, 2005, 2007

I was listening to the Alchemist not so long ago and wondering why Sweden's Witchcraft hadn't done any new music in  years because the last I know they were still together. Then I see that their three lps have gotten re-released. Okay, it's not new material but it will have to do although the latest word is their forth album will be called Legend and it will come out this fall. Which might mean it's a perfect time to explore their back catalog again. Witchcraft formed back in 2000 and by 2004 their self-titled release came out. They are often labeled as a doom band and that's not incorrect. Although they owe far more to early 70's proto-metal bands than they do to 80's doom acts like Candlemass or Saint Vitus. The influences on all three of these albums include Pentagram, Jethro Tull, Sabbath, Dust, Bang and other pioneers. The 2004 debut is probably the most primitive album and the one I would say could be considered the most straight ahead doom in it's approach. Unlike other bands that just draw on influences Witchcraft instead try to sound like they came from a different era. They have the sound, the production and have frequently recorded on vintage equipment in order to get their music to sound like it was done in the early 1970's. The debut has more tracks than either of the two follow-ups. It definitely has a sound like a bunch of guys jamming in a basement or a garage, which is likely what they were aiming for.  My favorite tracks on the debut are "Lady winter", "No angel or demon" and "It's no easy".
A year later the sophomore album "Firewood" was released and that's when I first hear Witchcraft. The sound and the approach was still along the same lines as the debut, but something had changed and for the better. Their control of the pace and their ability to change up the tempo showed a marked improvement.  They had gone from sounding like a rough tribute band to almost being masters of the style. Although the Pentagram influence was possibly even greater. I remember playing this album a lot when it first came out. Despite the obvious influences they were just so catchy. Favorite tracks on  "Mr. Haze", "I see a man" and "Chyld of fire".
Then two years went by before "The Alchemist" came out in the fall of 2007. The style is still similar to the other albums but once again they made another leap forward with their writing and playing. What they really developed on this album was the ability to launch into non-traditional song structures and just run with them. This approach kind of goes back to jamming skills they showed on the debut except this time around it's far more refined. By refined I mean that everything seems very automatic but they still have those rough and heavy images that defined many of their songs on all three albums. They were definitely coming into their own with this album and I was actually surprised by the amount of progress they showed on this album. My favorite tracks here are "Hey, doctor", "Remembered" and the title track.
Thanks to Metal Blade and Rise Above for re-issuing these albums and reminding me how much I enjoyed Witchcraft. I am looking forward to the new album in a few months, but with the line-up changes and the amount of time since the last album I do wonder how the new album will compare with their previous work.

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