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Catchy hardrock - 80%

mad_submarine, October 9th, 2012

Witchcraft have undergone some changes since their debut album that currently reflect their music. The self-titled record started a fantastic musical legacy and the band continued to write songs in that doomy/psychedelic folky sort of way in their second album “Firewood” as well. According to many people, the third full-length “The Alchemist” which was released two years after “Firewood” sounds in the same analog minimalistic way, but for me it is not as magical as the first two, even if the analog sound is not wiped away. However, on Legend the change is more eminent and the folk motives so characteristic for the debut are not so easy for one to hear. Not to mention the modern overtone of the sound that has been (in my opinion, again) forced by Nuclear Blast. I know that most people don’t give a fuck about labels, but as a huge doom metal lover I don’t see the future of a psychedelic/ folk rock band under the wing of this modern metal label.

For those of you who have not had contact with the lovely tales of Witchcraft – this band comes from Sweden and though Sweden is not particularly famous for that kind of rock these guys don’t find that as an obstacle. Along with their former band peers Graveyard, Witchcraft play that vintage sounding, soft hard rock, characteristic for bands like Pentagram. And since I already mentioned Pentagram, some people say that the first Witchcraft album sounded like a tribute to the formerly mentioned guys. I don’t know if Witchcraft tried hard to sound old and folky, but they certainly created something unique for our time that left its mark. To come to the word, if you have already did – don’t get me wrong. Witchcraft still write these catchy rock’n’roll songs. Legend is in no way a “letdown” regarding catchy riffs and choruses. Most songs on the new album will easily become ‘live hits’ and if we speak of “catchiness” this is the catchiest Witchcraft release. Only the debut can’t compete with it in that aspect since it is very memorable even from the first listen. The moment you hear the first two songs, you know that this album is not going to suck or bore you. Each song flows perfectly, there are no fillers here. The new band members – two new guitar players and a drummer don’t affect the old sound in a noticeable way, with the only visible change being the more modern sound and production. What is really good is that Magnus still sings with his dreamy and characteristic voice that makes Witchcraft so memorable and different from the many in that scene. What should be mentioned is that now he focuses only on the vocals whereas in the previous albums he also played the guitar.

Legend has varying songs – some faster paced, some that can be classified as ballads – in that aspect there is no big change from the other albums. I won’t discuss each one on its own, what I think I should point out is that the album doesn’t sound as one big whole river that doesn’t end, every song is different from the other so don’t fear potential boredom. The opener track, which is also one of my favourites, starts with that super catchy even metal riffage supported by some of the heaviest vocals on the album. What I think is a big minus is the slow down a bit before the end where the vocals also become too slow and eventually cheesy – I mention it because this is present in not one or two songs – it makes the song sound cheesy and dumb. I know that some people like such softness to be inserted at certain times, but I think it needlessly softens the music as a whole. And this is what bugs me at times – Legend is TOO light. If someone tries to lie to you that you’re listening to doom metal, don’t believe them. This is really classy and varying hard rock, but in no way doom metal. One more minus is the fact that while the first albums had some atmospheric feeling to them, a feeling that could transport you to another time and place, the one we hear in 2012 lacks that ability. Fortunately, the guitars still does these solo tricks here in that specific Witchcraft way so the awesomeness is still present to a big extent.

It is not true that if you like the first Witchcraft albums, you will instantly fall in love with this one, however, it is very likely. For even if these guys now look a lot modern and certainly sound like that, I guess that was pretty normal and can be counted as a natural evolution.

Revivalist Doom at its Best - 92%

TheStormIRide, September 22nd, 2012

Swedish psychedelic doomsters Witchcraft return to the scene with their first release since 2007, the aptly named "Legend”. Aptly named because Witchcraft has amassed a devout following over the past decade, becoming somewhat legendary themselves, releasing album after album of the highest quality doom metal with a psychedelic edge . Anyone familiar with Witchcraft's earlier albums won't find too many surprises hear, as “Legend” displays the band doing what they do best, perhaps with a slightly more modern feel.

Returning to the fold with a largely revamped line up, Magnus Pelander (vocals, formerly guitars) and Ola Henriksson (bass) recruited two new guitarists and a new drummer before recording “Legend”. Lineup changes don't always mean huge changes in sound, and thankfully, the new lineup keeps that vintage Witchcraft feel. If anything, the new members seem to bring a more professional approach to the music.

To the uninitiated, Witchcraft takes the traditional doom approach of Pentagram, the riffing and vibe of early Black Sabbath and runs it through a blender of classic rock influences such as Uriah Heep (minus the prog), Thin Lizzy and Steppenwolf. Throw in some Ozzy inspired vocals and you have somewhat of an idea what to expect. Rather than the melancholy atmospheres of other doom acts such as Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, Magnus and crew tend to come across as more lighthearted and fun loving.

One of the biggest shifts between 2007's “The Alchemist” and “Legend” is Magnus Pelander focusing solely on vocals and no longer playing guitar. The vocals sound a lot more dominating than previous releases, with Mangus' voice going from a melodic, soft singing to an Ozzy Osbourne inspired wail, sounding quite similar to Dan Fondelius of Count Raven. The Ozzy influence is there, but the vocals are so much better than the Ozzmn's output of the past two decades, as the lines are clear and intelligible. Actually, I imagine this is what Ozzy would sound like if half a century of drug abuse and alcoholism had never happened. Lyrically, Magnus has matured quite a bit since the “Wooden Cross” days, but some juvenile aspects still remain (“Democracy” especially).

New guitarists, Tom Jondelius and Simon Solomon, carry the torch passed from previous albums. It actually sounds as if the pair have been in the band all along, as there is no dramatic change from earlier releases. The guitar lines are, honestly, much more professional than that of the self titled debut and “Firewood”, but “The Alchemist” saw Witchcraft upping their playing abilities and professionalism. The guitars sound more modern than the previous releases and don't have the analog feel during the riffs. The solos and fills tend to have a pervasive 1970's vibe and sound, but are given a much more powerful punch. Slow and monstrous Black Sabbath infused riffing dominates this release, but the guitars take on a lighter edge at times and give a little breathing room with flowing, melodic lines.

Rather than following the guitar, the bass lines go all over the map. Henriksson's playing on “Legend” sounds pretty much like one rolling fill. Walking bass lines fill in all the gaps between riffs and notes and never lets up. The drums continue the vein of earlier releases, being fairly laid back and having more in common with classic rock than with doom metal. Oscar Johansson is not a showy drummer on this release and is content to play tom heavy lines with minimalistic cymbal work.

Switching to a major label must have it's perks, as Nuclear Blast Records were able to provide the fine services of producer, mixer and mastering extraordinaire, Jens Bogren. Bogren has worked with a long line of acclaimed acts, such as Opeth, Amon Amarth, Katatonia, Ihsahn, Paradise Lost and Symphony X, just to name a few. Increased production values are evident, as Witchcraft finally sounds like a modern band, without sacrificing any of their 1970's vibe. Every instrument can be heard through the entire album. There are no overly muddy sections and the drums are clear as day (unlike the tinny, trash can sound of previous efforts).

The track “It's Not Because of You” sums up “Legend” best with the line, “It's not because of you, I'm still in love with what I do.” It's obvious that Magnus Pelander and crew absolutely love what they are doing. Five years after their last album and Witchcraft haven't missed a beat. With the now-so-popular 1970's revivalist scene, “Legend” just might be the best example the genre has to offer. Recommended to everyone, as this is a great album that should be seeing a lot of top ten lists this year.