Review by: B.B. Fultz
Album assigned by: Syd Spence
NOTE : The only versions of this album that I could find had some gaps between the songs, so I’m assuming a few of the songs were missing. It’s possible the missing songs are better than the ones I commented on, so take my lukewarm review of the album with a grain of salt.
An album by a band called Witchcraft, billed as “doom metal” by reviewers, and released in the year 2012 doesn’t sound promising. One can already hear the overproduced mess of power chords, the unintelligible lyrics, the phlegm-throated shrieking, all the elements of something an angsty 13 year old boy might headbang to (when he wasn’t listening to Korn).
Good News … This album isn’t like that. Surprisingly, it’s a callback to classic heavy metal. The most obvious and most prevalent influence is early Black Sabbath. From the very first song, the vocal style reminds me of Ozzy. Not the voice so much as how the lyrics are sung. Specifically mid-period Sabbath (Vol-4/SBS/Sabotage) where Ozzy was expanding his emotive range rather than simply repeating the guitar phrases with his voice. The vocalist is good enough in his way. He’s no great shakes but he has a decent enough range to pull off these songs. For heavy metal, there’s surprisingly not much screaming or growling on this album. This singer favors melodicity over brute force. The upside to this is, he doesn’t sound like a total choad. The downside is that he doesn’t make a very strong impression. He’s no Ian Gillan, just a run-of-the-mill rock singer with an okay set of pipes.
The songs tend to grind along at mid-tempo. They’re heavy, but not too heavy. There’s lots of sludge here, but there’s also a momentum of sorts. These guys aren’t just playing that sludgy metal sound because it “sounds cool” (although it does), they’re actually trying to go somewhere with it. There is a lot of melodic string-plucking between the heavy riffs, and passages that sound like they’re trying to be acoustic even though they’re electric guitar … you know, that quasi-medieval sound, when heavy metal is trying a little too hard to sound emotional and cathartic (Blackmore’s Rainbow must have been another influence). The riffs themselves are not all that memorable. Likewise, the playing is competent, but not much beyond that. Most of these songs probably won’t stick in your head if you’re not a heavy metal fan, and maybe even if you are one.
The solos are the most interesting part of the album, because they’re such a deliberate callback to classic rock bands (of various schools, not just heavy metal). They often resemble 70s hard rock solos (slow and heavy — think David Gilmour in “Pigs”) combined with certain melodic tendencies from 80s metal solos. They are not very fast or flashy, which probably works to their advantage. 70s solos were pieces of information, each note a specific word or phrase or gesture, which is what separated them from generic 80s noodling. A given solo might sound like Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, even Lynyrd Skynyrd. The more interesting solos sound like a few different bands over a short span of time. While there are 80s (and later) elements at work here, the heart of the solos is rooted in 70s hard rock.
Nothing on this album jumps out as amazing or innovative, but that’s probably not what they were going for. It’s more of a tribute to classic rock by some guys with a little skill and an obvious love for the older bands. Whatever hooks there are on this album, if any, are not especially sharp, but at least it’s a reasonably coherent tribute to old school heavy metal. And in 2012, that’s maybe not such a bad thing.