Witchcraft are a band that stand in solitude in the modern music climate. Their melodic, honest take on classic psychedelic rock has gained them an impressive underground following since their debut on Rise Above back in 2004. This following will soon sky-rocket with German label giants Nuclear Blast snapping them up after snatching fellow riff wielders Graveyard and Orchid.
This signing has tied in with an interesting change for the band, with vocalist (and until ‘Legend’ also guitarist) Magnus Pelander and bassist Ola Henriksson now the only members still present from previous album ‘The Alchemist.’ This will be a worrying sign for long time fans of the band with such a shift in dynamics often hinting at a change in style and sound.
Luckily, ‘Legend’ sees a similar Witchcraft who released the monolithic ‘Firewood,’ albeit a bit more trimmed and a bit less earthy than their previous work. The medieval atmosphere that ran through songs such as ‘Hey Doctor’ is not as prevalent this time round, but there are still enough ancient riffs to wake a Camel fan from their 70s slumber.
Album opener ‘Deconstruction’ is certainly one of the album’s strongest points with some unashamed Pentagram worship. The trademark vocals of Magnus tower on this track and make his decision to ditch playing guitar make a little more sense. The lyrics also point to a typical Witchcraft subject with his distain for modern society becoming pretty black and white.
This subject is a common theme on ‘Legend,’ suiting the band’s old was always better attitude. The only time this becomes overbearing is on ‘Democracy’ with some cringe worthy ‘fuck this,’ ‘fuck that’ lyrics from the normally squeaky clean front-man.
Apart from Magnus’s newly dominant role, the biggest surprise on ‘Legend’ is how rampant the bass has become. This is an interesting development in Witchcraft’s sound, seeing as the surviving members have become the two who have the most impact.
Closer ‘Dead End’ is the best example of how important bass has become to Witchcraft, weaving in and out of a king riff which holds the song together. This song is the album’s ‘Alchemist,’ clocking in at 12 minutes and containing that almighty atmosphere which made the former album such a success.
Lead single ‘It’s Not Because of You’ was a good choice as their debut for Nuclear Blast, marrying the newer Thin Lizzy esque moments that’ll draw in virgin fans with an atmospheric middle part to please long-time supporters. Although it’s a good choice for that reason, the song is one of the weaker numbers on the album and doom heads will no doubt find more pleasure in heavier cuts such as ‘Flag of Fate’ than this.
Witchcraft have opened a new musical chapter with ‘Legend’ that should cement the group as one of the leaders of the modern groove rock style. This album isn’t their strongest effort to date, but does a damn fine job of demonstrating that the Swedes are miles ahead when it comes to heart-felt, majestic rock.
Scribed by: Alex Varley