Release DetailsLABEL Candlelight
RELEASED ON 7/26/2005
posted on 7/2005 By:
Witchcraft’s first album was warmly received as one of the more unusual and prized discoveries of last year. It’s one thing to go retro, but the debut from these young Swedes seemed by all indications to be the product of thirty years ago. Everything about the band—their image, sound, and recording all screamed "vintage". It was the kind of album that seems more appropriately heard, not from an i-pod, but on vinyl or a damn reel to reel, and preferably in a room filled with shag carpeting and incense. Witchcraft’s homage to decades past was obvious worship, but a charming and persuasive one, and it wasn’t long before a healthy buzz developed. Apparently the band also possesses the productivity ethic of the era as well, when bands typically released an album a year. They have wasted no time in striking while the iron is hot, releasing Firewood, a more than worthy sophomore offering.
Influences are plentiful, ranging from psychedelic rock acts like Jethro Tull and Blue Cheer, early doom from Black Sabbath and Pentagram, as well as NWOBHM era doom from bands like Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General. It’s the Sabbath and Pentagram references that are thrown around most though—Sabbath as the progenitor of doom, and Pentagram as the clearest singular influence. Witchcraft make no secret of their adoration of the band--a visit to the band’s website will show that Pentagram is the first group listed in each of the four member’s profiles under “favorite bands”, and then there’s the very loyal cover of “When the Screams Come” that’s tacked onto the last song as a hidden bonus track. With such apparent influences and vintage style, Witchcraft runs the risk of abdicating an identity of their own, becoming a gray screen against which footage of the originals is projected, but their second album sees the band take at least small steps toward coming into their own.
Firewood is an engrossing effort that will undoubtedly cast over listeners a spell very similar to last year’s album. “Chylde of Fire” is a catchy as hell uptempo opener that ends with a none too subtle nod to Black Sabbath. The thick and ominous riffing of “Queen of Bees” provides the heaviest moment on the album and warrants yet another Sabbath reference. Part of what makes Firewood so damn impressive is how well the songs are tastefully balanced. Every instrument has a prominent and functional role, and tempo changes and solos are placed and executed impeccably, revealing an impressive level of confidence and class. The rhythm section works especially well together to add texture to the melodies. Take “Mr. Haze”, one of the strongest tracks on the album, due in large part to the drum fills and cowbell, and an irrepressible bass line you’ll be humming in your car for weeks. It’s difficult to pick out highlights on an album so consistently solid—from the psychedelic, free spirited instrumental “Merlin’s Daughter”, to the sullen doom of “Sorrow Evoker” and “Wooden Cross (I Can’t Wake the Dead)” and the loose hippy spirit of “If Wishes Were Horses”, the songs all work well and contribute to the album with an unusual level of parity. This is the kind of album that yields a different favorite song every listen.
Consistent with the material (and their obsessions) the band recorded the album on equipment from the 60’s and 70’s, and the production is completely appropriate for the spirit of the album. One can easily spend the entirety of Firewood in a closed eyed, head nodding, heel tapping reverie. Witchcraft has surely produced the traditional doom album of the year, regardless of the year of its seeds of origination.
Register to post comments.