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Tribute band gone original - 85%

olo, November 21st, 2007

These Swedish blokes who go by the name Witchcraft are heavily influenced by Pentagram(US). Just thought I'd make that clear right at the beginning. They started off as a Pentagram tribute band in 2000. Go to their website and check out the member profiles and see Pentagram being mentioned first thing under influences/favourites and just to strengthen that argument, one listen to this album, their third so far, and we all know where majority of their sound comes from.

Singer-guitarist Magnus Pelander even manages to clone Bobby Leibling's psych and blues tinged vocal style. Hear it especially on Walk Between the Lines. The songs on the other hand are where Witchcraft fortunately venture out of this precinct and come into their own. Some songs here are clear examples of the prototype of doom as played in the late 60s and the early 70s. For example, a lot of Iommi influenced songwriting dynamics can be heard on Hey Doctor, especially when the tempo change happens mid-way through this song. Many others though, showcase their other influences from the same era.

They jam a little, there's a funky vibe to their grooves once in a while, their fluid blues rock-rooted leads are just beautiful in context. To complement their vintage sound, they use vintage equipment and go that extra mile when it comes to warm analog based recording. The production sounds amazingly retro but not dated; all the tones are top-notch.

One thing these guys do differently for a band that has its sound rooted in the late 60s is the usage of two guitars instead of sticking to the power trio format. Listen to these songs on a good pair of earphones and you'll hear the fantastic interplay between the two guitarists throughout this album. Rhythm guitars are multi-tracked even while there's some soloing going on, so it sounds full alright.

The beginning of Samaritan Burden is the band is at its funkiest and the vocal lines on the verse bit almost sounds like Tool on "Third Eye". With such a serene and unexpected ending, this is one of the picks of the album. The multipart epic title song that closes the album out is phenomenal too; acoustic melancholic guitar passages with subtle atmosphere (did I hear some flutes in there too?) and then going into the heavy chorus and back to showering us with a lot more beautifully arranged acoustic parts before returning to the main riff/verse/choruses again.

Special mentions to the moog on the excellent If Crimson Was Your Colour and the saxophone on Remembered; these things add a lot of additional flavour to this band's music.

To sum it all up, these guys do their tributes in style, write great original songs with great production values and are willing to try things out while they're at it. Highly recommended.