Witchcraft have set out to capture the spirit of classic rock. They’re on a quest to hunt down the sound that defined a genre which subsequently spawned a movement that so many of us continue to love 30 or 40 years later. In many ways it’s more a lifestyle than simply a musical form; rock and metal fans are universally acknowledged as some of the most committed, active and obsessed of music’s many followers. Heavy music is there when we celebrate, when we need a pick me up; we share it with our friends, and it’s our company when we’re alone.
So many of us can trace it back to the great bands of the ‘70s that really breathed life into rock music; it’s the time when conventions were drawn up and a template was forged. You need only look at the albums released in any year of that decade to appreciate just what heady days they were.
Is it any wonder, then, that Witchcraft have chosen to make reference to those times and that music? What better way to celebrate possibly the greatest musical decade of all by breathing new life into the form, taking those classic elements and reassembling them for 2012.
“Legend” is Witchcraft’s fourth album, following “Witchcraft” (2004), “Firewood” (2005) and “The Alchemist” (2007), and is their first on the Nuclear Blast label. There have been some changes along the way, with new members Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius on twin guitars and drummer Oscar Johannson joining bassist Ola Henriksson and Magnus Pelander on vocals. Witchcraft founder Pelander has relinquished guitar duties this time to focus his energies exclusively on vocals.
The classic rock journey that is “Legend” kicks off with the Sabbath-like intro of “Deconstruction”, as the doomy riff and multiple tempo changes establish immediately what the band is all about. “Flag of Fate” recalls Uriah Heep and firmly establishes Pelander’s credentials as a confident, solid vocalist: focusing purely on this part of the performance has done him no harm whatsoever. The intro gives little clue as to where the song is likely to go, but once it’s into its stride it positively rattles along with some twin guitar harmonies thrown in for good measure.
“It’s Not Because Of You” takes great riffs and builds a song structure around them: a punch the air chorus, guitar solos, mellow mid-section; and it builds to a serious climax as instruments pile upon one another in a wall of sound before the riff that has been the song’s ritornello ties up all of the musical loose ends very nicely.
Witchcraft also tap a rich vein of emotion, “An Alternative To Freedom” and “White Light Suicide” showing passion and, at times, not a little melancholy. If the music has that pleasing familiarity about it, then so too do the lyrics. How could anyone fail to warm to a band who sing ‘Cast the stone into the water now, and watch them ripples spread like poison’ and ‘Walk courageously into the fire’? They might almost have been penned by the mighty and much missed Ronnie James Dio.
Each song on the album displays intelligence and integrity, breaking them down into their constituent parts showing an inner logic that has an almost organic feel: their creation seems to be evolution, as though they have grown naturally; nothing is forced and everything works.
Like a new structure built at the convergence of ancient ley lines, Witchcraft’s “Legend” harnesses the power of tradition and that which has gone before to create a new album for 2012; and a very good one at that.