Witchcraft - Firewood - Rise Above Records 2005
Running Time: 45:28
My first exposure to Sweden's Witchcraft came admittedly by way of a live bootleg from 2004's Roadburn Festival. Even through the live medium, and my unfamiliarity with the material, I could tell this band had something special. When added to my listening rotation, I found myself sandwiching the recording between albums like Cream's Disraeli Gears and Demons And Wizards by Uriah Heep. The band seemed to be the perfect mixture of early-mid 70s psyche rock and the hard rock of that same era. Turns out, on arrival of Firewood, my suspicions were proven correct.
That the proceedings begin with the proto-Captain Beyond gallop of 'Chylde Of Fire', and the clear vocals of Magnus Pelander singing "I was born past midnight, 'neath the gloom of the darkest moon." should give you a pretty fair understanding of just what Witchcraft is on about. There's precious little in the way of distorted guitars on Firewood, but when the riffs are as catchy as they are on the driving 'If Wishes Were Horses', it actually helps to be able to hear the guitars without having to listen past a wall of fuzzed-out Orange amps to get the full effect. Six-stringer John Hoyles injects a short Yardbirds phrase just before the chorus of the acoustic/electric 'Mr. Haze', clearing up any misconception that Witchcraft is just another stoner/doom/Rise Above band birthed from the ass of Black Sabbath's first four albums. 'Queen Of Bees' leads off at a plodding, lumbering gait, Witchcraft Leafhounding it up for all they're worth, Pelander's vocals as rough here as you're likely to hear them. The plaintive, mournful tone of 'Sorrow Evoker' is coloured by muted acoustics and a flute during much of the song, only to give way to the double-time delivery of 'You Suffer', a bit of the blues influence of mid-70s British guitar rock breaking through the doom once more. Witchcraft brings this ritual to a close with the energetic 'Attention!', which finds the band going down in a flaming ball of glory, guitars shrieking and cymbals crashing like distant thunder. While many are retreading rock's hallowed halls in the search for the "something" that's missing from much of today's music, Witchcraft has found their magic in the "Plug in, turn it up, and play." simplicity of Firewood.
Don't write Witchcraft off as simply "doom" metal. It doesn't do justice to the band, or the album in this case. This is the album to play for your parents when they bitch about no one making music "the old fashioned way" anymore. Stripping away all the trappings, Firewood reveals a purity of essence missing from much of the today's hard rock/metal.