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The power of synergy - 100%

Midnight_Mover, September 29th, 2010

I don't remember why I bought a tape with Spellcraft back in the '90s, but it was definitely a big positive surprise to me, and it stays one of my favorites until this day.

Spellcraft's genre is dark metal- someway half between heavy and gothic, which means softer sound, and slower tempos than in heavy, but still no doom-like slowness or pomp and melancholy characteristic to gothic. As such, it represents a transition from early Darkseed's doom/death to later (and current) more gothic than heavy sound.

The album starts with spoken intro of Craft Her Spell, with some backing percussion and keyboards. The rest of the songs are, well, dark metal keeping mid-tempo pace, with many of them having distinct slower or faster parts. The exception here is Walk in Me, which is all slow. Songs are mostly loosely structured, far from 'verse chorus verse chorus solo chorus', but still there are some reprises from time to time. Main vocals ale delivered with a clean, a bit raspy voice. Singing (mostly), riff parts, intros, and different inserts take most time of the songs, so there is not much left for solos. They are rather short, thus difficult to rate, but they sound in place. There is a sense of balance between classic heavy sound and gothic overtones. From time to time we have a verse or two with female vocals (sung with normal, non-operatic voice) thrown in, and occasional keyboards add to the mix. Violin and flute can be also heard (probably just emulated with keyboard?). Add to this relative shortness of songs (the longest being just 4:44) and the whole album (38:20), and we have pretty varied material. And add on top a musical idea for every song, and it starts to sound interesting. But the strong point of this album is heaps of catchiness. Songs, every one of them, are easily memorable straight after first listening, some having this stickiness factor that makes them hard to get rid from your head.

The remaining parts of Spellcraft are all well executed: production (not perfect, but rather clean- all instruments can be easily heard), lyrics (just OK), musicianship (competent as far as I can tell).

So, what is so great about this album? It's just that everything works so great together. If I had to point to its single forte, it would be songwriting, but arrangements, performance, vocals, and everything else mixes in what is extremely satisfying experience. While no element of Spellcraft is ideal or innovative, they make up a top-notch whole. There is a sense of freedom, energy, drive in this music. It flows fluently through all the album, bringing a new idea, riff, melody every second moment. It is calm, balanced, yet dynamic and full of life at the same time- I think vocals play significant role here.

Giving Spellcraft the perfect score, I cannot help feeling a dichotomy: there is no area where this album excels. But on the other side, whenever I play it, I feel it is perfect with all its imperfections, well deserving 100%. That is the power of synergy.