Witchcraft’s new album is titled Legend, it should have been titled Riff Fest. This band is a miracle of evolution to me. Seventies monster guitar riffs that should come off as cliché coupled with a singer whose voice is so melodic and even soft at times, that the whole thing should topple over into the same kind of joke-rock The Darkness create.
Nope. Not even close. Instead Witchcraft write songs that call upon the same muse that gave us Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Thin Lizzy and even Led Zeppelin. Don’t mistake the calling of that muse as Witchcraft ripping off anyone. What they do is completely their own even if it is wrapped up in a blanket of rock that’s musty smell is derived from the deep seventies.
The interesting push and pull of Legend comes between the vocals and guitar. Magnus Pelander, who has given up guitar to focus on vocals. With that decision, Legend becomes an album where the vocals are much more in your face than earlier work. However, new guitarists Tom Jondelius and Simon Solomon deliver riffs of such brazen rock fury that the guitars never lose a step to the vocals. In other words, losing Pelander on guitar hasn’t allowed the vocals to take over nor the guitars to suffer.
“Deconstruction” opens Legend and is indicative of the rifftopia that Witchcraft deliver. This song would have been a killer with just the slow opening. It grooves with a purpose, it slithers and struts like a hot chick daring you not to want her. Just when the epic heaviness hits its finest moment, Witchcraft open up with a faster jam that is so powerful it to could have been an entire song. These riffs are good on their own, the fact that Witchcraft exploit one into the other proves that they have guitar mastery to spare.
“Flag Of Fate” delivers a bit more of a prog feel with the rolling drums and the bright, complex riffage. The dueling guitars and solos, the constant rumbling bass that moves with as many fills as the drums allows “Flag OF Fate” to be the most layered tune Witchcraft has written to date. Built on a platform of the drums and bass, “Flag Of Fate” allows the guitars to experiment from low rumble to giant crush. Tethering the whole song is Pelander, who sings like a narrator leading us through the offbeat territory of Witchcraft’s music.
A perfect hole is blown through the Earth with “It’s Not Because Of You”. This is the jam where Witchcraft begin unloading their true genius. Yes the riff rocks your face off, yes the drums have a swing to them you wouldn’t expect under such a gated guitars, yes the slow a melancholy backing vocal give the song a sense of urgency. None of that matters when Pelander unleashes the chorus. Few times have music and vocals married to perfectly. The result in “It’s Not Because Of You” is astounding.
Legend never lets up. “Ghosts House” pummels with a doom swing, “White Light Suicide” gets filthy, the kind of AC/DC and Thin Lizzy dirty grooves that are a lost art form. “Dystopia” slows things down a bit. There is no huge riff here, more delicate guitar noodling and drums that are there for punctuation as opposed to time keeping. It’s akin to Sabbath’s “Hand Of Doom” or Pentagram’s “Last Days Here”. Witchcraft even throw in a twelve minute epic, with a spooky middle part that will show Iron Maiden’s “Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner” the door any day of the week.
Drizzled over this heavy meal of rock is Mangus Pelander’s ridiculous voice. I say ridiculous because it is often very pretty but never loses a drop of power. Melodic, melancholy, and power Witchcraft’s music, everything is raised a level. Average songs become good songs, good songs become great songs and great songs become classics. Pelander belongs to that very exclusive club of vocalists like Rob Halford, Bruce Dickenson, Freddy Mercury, (old) Ozzy, Bobby Liebling, Maynard James Keenan and those whose voice sounds like nothing else in the world.
Some will bitch that Legend is too produced, that it’s lost that grimy “70s” quality, that the recording is too clean and too digital. Those people are wrong. Legend is the finest album Witchcraft has put out and it easily derails most of the current rock train. Is this album perfect? No. Some of the songs meander and I wish the bass had been recorded a little higher, but those nitpicks only serve to show how close to perfect Legend is. Witchcraft have stepped up to all the bands who promised us the “most rocking album of their career” and actually delivered it.