Witchcraft

Nucleus

Written by: AP on 03/02/2016 14:57:05

No one can deny that Witchcraft’s move from Rise Above Records to Nuclear Blast was accompanied by a profound effect on the Swedish heritage rock pioneers’ sound. The production was densified and polished, and the songs sheared from their doom leanings to end at a streamlined, metallic rock style on 2012’s “Legend” — a far cry from the authentic warmth of 2004’s “Witchcraft”, which was recorded in a basement studio using vintage equipment. The result there was magical; a true 70’s sounding doom/classic rock record widely regarded as one of the cornerstones of the now-blossoming movement, a feat the band has since struggled to reproduce even on their other two Rise Above releases “Firewood” (2005) and “The Alchemist” (2007). But even so, both efforts stood out as strong ambassadors for the genre, and it was only with the aforementioned “Legend” that the group’s fans became more polarised in their opinions.

On this latest outing “Nucleus”, it is not surprising then, that Witchcraft set about restoring some of the aspects that earned them such appraisal during their early years. The metallic undercurrent persists, but the production feels less glossy now, with vocalist Magnus Pelander handling mixing and mastering himself in liaison with Philip Gabriel Saxin and Anton Sundell; and there is a noticeably heavier presence of doom here than on the predecessor. The opening track “Malstroem” certainly harks back to that style, its sluggish tempo, brooding atmosphere and ominous riffs all subscribing to the doom archetype, whilst those infusions of Scandinavian folk music so central to the debut album ring once more in the eponymous “Nucleus”, and eventually the final piece “Breakdown”. Together the three songs account for nearly 40 minutes of the record’s staggering length, packing all manner of string arrangements, woodwind and operatic choir chants in their melancholy midst as a smokescreen for Pelander’s questionable and grammatically tenuous lyricism (no, loving parents does not rhyme with discontent regardless of emphasis, and no, ”Save a nation from a bad economy, is like sailing away on an endless sea” is neither correct English nor a meaningful simile).

Indeed, more often than not, it is up to Simon Solomon & Tom Jondelius on the guitars, Ola Henriksson on the bass, and Oscar Johansson behind the drums to convey what Pelander’s words cannot, and they deserve significant applause for channeling the emotions through gargantuan, crowd pleasing doom riffs. The trouble is, with scattered exceptions, the sheer enormity and mostly glacial pace of the record often stifles its own flame. Tracks like “The Outcast” (from which the lyrics highlighted above were extracted, by the way) and “The Obsessed” offer that same high octane rating, and provide the same rhythmic variations that made “Legend” such a memorable affair, but with disjointed overall structuring and an unconsidered fixation on resurrecting the past, the attractions are short lived in the greater context of the album As a consequence, much of “Nucleus” plays like an endless progression of heavy, smoky jams that, while skilfully executed, border on self-indulgence. Seriously, Black Sabbath could have written this stuff in their sleep. This is particularly true in the second half where, ironically, Witchcraft are forced to rely on Pelander’s remarkably powerful voice rather than on good songwriting. The myriad of solemn solos and majestic stoner riffs can momentarily be indulged, but there is a serious lack of purpose to this thing. Get it for the singles, if anything — those should hold your attention while Witchcraft gather their ideas into a more coherent package.

5

Download: The Outcast, The Obsessed
For the fans of: Black Sabbath, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats
Listen: Facebook

Release date 15.01.2016
Nuclear Blast Records

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