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Swedish retro psychedelic/hard rock/doom metal band Witchcraft released sophomore album 'Firewood' in 2005; only a year after their popular self-titled debut album was released. Stylistically, it's the same. The Pentagram and Black Sabbath worship, the late 60s/early 70s feel and the gothic/occult theme are all present. Musically, it's not too different from the debut album either. The band thrives on playing the simple, old school riffs. They're not loud, crushingly heavy and all that evil like many doom riffs are, but are somewhat mellow and melancholic, as well as melodic and catchy. There are some good leads and solos here and there; nothing too flashy, but effective and memorable nevertheless. The "catchiness" and diversity can be heard on tracks such as "Mr. Haze", "Merlin's Daughter", "Sorrow Evoker" and the very cool blues-driven "Attention!". Catchy, melodic riffs and acoustic guitars thrown into the mix to great effect. The drums are mostly simple, but do an excellent job. I must say that the bass is much better on 'Firewood' than on 'Witchcraft'. It grooves on some of the tracks! I'm a big fan of Magnus Pelander and his voice. The Bobby Liebling influence is great, and while I admire Liebling and all the work he has done for the underground metal scene, Pelander is simply a better singer.
This brings me to the production. The production on 'Firewood' is, like the basslines, better than on the debut album. While I don't mind the very thin, hazy analog production on the 'Witchcraft', I feel that the production on this record brings out the sheer amount of quality that Witchcraft possesses (no pun intended).
While the fellows in Witchcraft certainly improved as musicians in the little year between 'Witchcraft' and 'Firewood', I think there is something extremely charming and magical about the self-titled debut. Be it the very retro production combined with the sometimes sloppy jamming and the mysterious howls and groans from Liebling Junior; I don't know, but Witchcraft had a lot to live up to with their second record. Despite the music being simplistic, it was mostly the atmosphere that would be hard to recapture, but I think the band managed to conjure another most excellent album. I prefer 'Witchcraft' over 'Firewood' by a hair, but this album goes highly recommended to fans of the darker side of the 70s rock and metal.
The 1970’s, remember those years? Probably not, but Witchcraft are unwavering in their resolve to take you back to the grooving, evil sounds that were the precursor to modern doom and heavy metal in general. Of course most Black Sabbath fans will be of the same mind that Sabbath possessed a foremost blues influence.
With “Firewood”, Witchcraft continues to masterfully meld that genre defining sound with a folksy, Jethro Tull element. This crossbreed of legendary sounds results in a vibe which, on the whole, reclaims the finest moments of those storied groups of yesteryear. This record gives off a distinctly warm aura which is at once well-known and stimulating. These guys have tapped into a tremor that is dark, yet woefully tuneful. As “Chylde Of Fire” so fiercely shows, Witchcraft pull those shadowy emotions from within and offer them up in a mode which is palatable and paganistic. Guitar-wise, the riffs are quite catchy and often very melodic. “If Wishes Were Horses” fuses melody, moodiness and a shimmering guitar tone that proves you do not always need substantial amounts of distortion in order to end up coming off as being monstrously heavy.
Indulging in tracks like the bluesy, soul driven “Mr Haze” or the dismal groan of “Queen Of Bees” is an enjoyably guilty pleasure, with Witchcraft being capable of reflecting the mystery that resides within those godlike giants that came before them. Conjuring bluesy grooves like the classic sounding “You Suffer” is a task these four pull off effortlessly, it’s tracks like this that really make you value the color that is a natural characteristic of analog tone and the group’s decision to record with retro gear. Put simply, this record is an instantaneous classic that shows Witchcraft to be the current masters of a markedly glum, mystical sound.
Analogue verses digital: the debate has been going on ever since the dawn of the digital age. Should bands go for cleaner production and less fuzz, or stick with the old vintage sounds of master tapes and tube amps. With many bands choosing a digital sound over vintage sounds, there seems to be a lack of warm, retro sounding bands in the new millennium.
Witchcraft’s sound is more likened to that of seventies hard rock bands (think early Black Sabbath for a reference) than most doom band of today. The production of “Firewood” sounds like it was taken straight out of the mid 1970’s. If you have ever seen pictures of Witchcraft, they definitely look like they are from the 70’s; total hippy/naturalist attire. So what exactly was the band trying to accomplish by taking their sound back to the days of old? Describing the music and feeling of this album may help shed some light on the answer.
We’ll take the drums to start. The drums have a very relaxed feeling to them. They are very minimalist (think early Jazz drummers), and serve to keep a steady beat in the music. It’s definitely not like many metal drummers who throw as many fills and blast beats into a single song as possible. There are parts when the drums take the forefront, but these parts are few and far between. Put it this way, the drummer is good, but he doesn’t show off. The band seems to know what works when looking for their certain sound. The drums are rather low in the mix, but once again, it works especially well.
The bass on this album is done really well. That connection between the minimalistic drums and the melodic guitars works very well. The bass player is not showing off, like a second-rate Steve DiGiorgio, but rather plays some really nice rolling lines that fill in the gap nicely. Once again, with “Firewood” being a minimalistic album, the bass is done as to not interfere with the feeling of the music.
The guitars are definitely one of the highlights of the album. There are some levels of distortion on this album, but once again, they are few and far between. Clean, non-distorted guitars are used on the majority of this album, giving a very retro feel about them. The chord choices are phenomenal. Everything fits together perfectly. That being said, there are not too many surprises, guitar-wise, on this album. The true depth of the music is shown best when the band has a fuzzy, warm feeling surrounding the guitars (not fuzzy, like puppies, but fuzzy like a dirty, grungy sound). The solos on this album are on a completely different level than most metal bands. They’re not the type of solos that just wow you, but a keen sense of timing and “what fits where” makes the solos all the more important. The solos have a very vintage feel, as does the rest of the album.
The vocals are definitely the stand-out of the album. In discussions with friends, I always relate the singer’s voice to that of an un-drugged, less whiney Ozzy Osbourne. His voice is definitely more dynamic than that of the Ozzman. Although the lyrics seem a bit rushed and childish, the vocalist manages to perform a stellar demonstration of prime seventies classic rock vocals. To give a little better description, the vocals are clean and unpolished. Unlike other doom bands, the vocalist does not permeate an air of melancholy or despair, but more of a slower style fun-loving rock and roll. It’s definitely worth a listen, if for the vocals alone.
The music ranges from a slow-tempo, with acoustic Led Zeppelin sounding passages (think “Stairway”), to a more upbeat tempo sound of Steppenwolf (think “Magic Carpet Ride”). Although I keep likening this band to seventies “rock” bands, the music is still decidedly metal. The general feeling of the music, the way it’s played, and the aura surrounding this release, is metal. Although it is not your typical doom band, ala Trouble or Saint Vitus, it is definitely doom metal, to a lesser extent. If Sabbath are the fathers of doom, then Witchcraft are definitely the grandchildren.
There are flaws in this album. The music, at times, is played rather sloppily, but it adds to vintage feeling of the release, so I guess it’s not really a flaw. Maybe the drums could be done with a little more flair, but I’m not sure if that would take away from the feeling of the release or not. The guitars are perfect on this release, and the vocals are also stellar. I guess the biggest flaw is in the lyrical department. With more work on the lyrics, this album could go from great to timeless. Many people don’t look too deeply into the lyrics; so a flaw to some, and a minor qualm to others. For an example, look at “If Wishes Were Horses”.
This release is just outstanding. If it wasn’t for the liner notes, I would have no idea that this was released in 2005. This album has everything a fan of early Sabbath would enjoy. To me, this album just blows away most of Sabbath’s releases: maybe the close to thirty year gap in time allowed for perfection. I must highly recommend this album to fans of doom metal, especially the classic Sabbath-esque brand. Also, any closet classic rock fans check this out! A great album by an excellent band, which I hope we haven’t heard the last of. “Firewood” is most likely destined to become an “essential” release.
'Firewood' is the second full-length of the swedish Doomsters Witchcraft. They play stoner-influenced Doom metal, but for those who are looking for some really heavy and downtuned music, this band isn't for you. The riffs on this album are catchy, entertaining, and probably the most memorable stoner riffs i've ever heard.
Every song doesn't tire itself in the sense that every riffs gets repeated too many times. Without the bonus track, this album is a mere 34 minutes! But that doesn't turn the experience into a bad one, as I have been listening to this album since the day I got it. After over 50 listens, I can say that this is a doom masterpiece that will go into the Doom metal hall of fame alongside Black Sabbath and Candlemass. The production is immaculate: not too shiny or underdone. The sound of the drums give the music a sense of old-school doom/stoner metal. The vocalist sounds like he's been at it for 20 years. His voice sounds fully developped, and it's the type of voice that sticks in your head forever. Highlights on this album are easy to find, it's just the one that's more memorable. 'Merlin's Daughter' and 'Mr Haze' both fit the requirements perfectly, even though the latter is quite short. 'You Suffer', the last track before the bonus track, is the most stoner-oriented track on this album. Catchy riffs as usual, but I get a different vibe from this track.
If you want an extremely memorable album, but you're also looking for an outstanding vocal performance and the likes, look no further than 'Firewood'. I guarantee it: you'll be humming along every time you spin this cd.