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Still Witched by This Thing - 95%

Ritchie Black Iommi, December 11th, 2012

A band that never had the time it deserved in the glory days of NWOBHM. Yes, that's what Pagan Altar was, long time ago.

And I say "was" because, now, they are getting it, and getting it very well with a couple of the finest heavy metal stuff released in the last 10 years or more. And if we consider their splits, demos and short releases, dude, we are serious, deadly serious.

I mean, obviously, there are sporadical good releases made by some newbies in the metal thing, guys who like it easy and they play what the record companies want them to play, they sometimes manage to launch in the market maybe one album which reaches the "85%" rating, but no more than that. And that's because of the lack of creativity, vision and originality. Here, old Mr. Jones, a wise druid of heavy metal and his son deliver to us a mix of classic metal sounds with doomy atmospheres and the thing works perfectly well.

The sounds are classical, the recording is ala-classic, the sound mixing is ala-classic. Even the musical-lyrical placement in the songs is quite classic. What's innovative is the approach, the reach and the style. In the age of "play it loud and dirty, thrashy, we will correct that", a pure and well fonded sound is a bliss and a joy. The whole album contains this natural sound of the instruments. The exact touch of distortion. The exact touch of treble and bass and not an overly-proportioned dense, murky and non-natural sounds in excess.

The lyrical contents are about paganism, religion, prophecies, death, destruction... Very NWOBHM and very doom. If we can talk about perfect mixes, here we got one.

But the important thing is the music and here is where the Pagan Altar seems to be alive and breathing. From the very opening and Samhein til' the grand finale with Rising of the Dark Lord, the guitar provides us that natural and clean sound, which reminds us of early Ritchie Blackmore (or even Jeff Beck, leaving the heavy metal realms). Gains from us automatic attention. Add to this the vocals, that hypnotic voice, and there you go, you are completely driven. The drums are solid, tight and patchy and they are the ones who keep the New Wave feeling in this album, despite the intrincate and dark lines of the bass and, as stated before, the sound of the guitar and Jones Sr. voice. Needed is to be said that Alan Jones already showed us how great he is in the guitar with Lords of Hypocrisy and here he confirms it. He has, as well, the "touch", that thing which makes him sound unique. Many good guitar performers are nowadays in metal. But the ones with the "touch" of originality and distinction, those are few. Alan Jones has that.

All the songs are particularly great and I won't go in a tiring and wearysome song-per-song critique. And, just in case, if I'm giving such a high rating to the album, that's because all the songs work it out. But my favourites are Samhein, mostly because of the intro and the beat; The Cry of the Banshee with those magic solos; Daemoni na Hoiche and The Rising of the Dark Lord because of the arrangements and again, the guitars. The vocalist, Mr. Jones, does it perfect for the style he purposes and this band achieves an unique feature, as I wrote earlier: they manage to obtain an original and distinctive sound. That thing you cannot buy it.

I'm still witched by this album, every second of it contains something new and enigmatic. It was one of the finest experiences I lived in heavy metal of the last decade. It's Magical and Mythical (never ever a name seemed to be so precise).