30 Jan 2016

Witchcraft: "Nucleus"

The Swedes leave behind the 70s
Witchcraft broke out as an early mover in the the resurgence of 70s influenced doom metal and hard rock in the 00s with classic albums like "Witchcraft" and "Firewood". Their style, however, changed quite a bit with 2012's "Legend", the Swedish group's fourth album. By then the songwriting had put on a more modern guise, taking on a more widespread audience. This time around Witchcraft's main songwriter Magnus Pelander is flanked by two new members in Tobias Anger on bass and Rage Widerberg on drums.

On a superficial level the first thing that stands out is the cover art, which without the Witchcraft logo might as well have belonged to any modern indie rock band. The next thing I noticed was the much longer track lengths. Through the 10 songs on "Nucleus" there's a cumulative playtime of almost an hour and fifteen minutes, rivaling most drone and excessively progressive rock albums. Knowing Pelander's trackrecord as songwriter and riff smith I expect heaps of flairful melodies and engaging heavy rock music, perhaps even with a progressive twist bringing newfound innovation to the music of Witchcraft.

"The album proposes the same straightforward approach that worked with the captivating guitar play of "Legend", but finds itself lacking in the riff department."

While the sound has, to some degree, remained intact and offers several twists and turns around different rock music turnpikes, visiting both heavier and lighter areas, I'm left a little wanting. The title track in particular is guilty of this meandering pace where there's left a lot of room around individual passages that Pelander and company simply don't do anything with other than repeat a few uncomplicated melodies. The album proposes the same straightforward approach that worked with the captivating guitar play of "Legend", but finds itself lacking in the riff department. The riff has always - and I stress always - been the center of Witchcraft's sound, its antithesis to Pelander's rough wailed vocals striking up that easy-to-recognise sound that the Swedes have made their own.

In many ways "Nucleus" does feel like a natural follow-up to "Legend". The band now elaborates on the more modern aspects that they put forth on there, but now going so far as to trading off most of the left over 70s Pentagram vibes with a sound that at times could best be likened to that of modern alt-rock/indie bands. Tracks like "The Outcast", flutes aside, especially plays like that, and though Pelander tries to make up for it with more deep felt singing and melodies, there's just not quite enough substance. It all comes down to whether or not one is open to accept a band's evolution. I speak of my experience with the album as a fan of their previous material, but to me "Nucleus" takes them too far away from their source to the point where they are only a vestige of their former identity.


Released in 2016 by Nuclear Blast Records

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