Swedish doomsters Witchcraft have had a bit of a line-up shuffle and switched labels since their last album The Alchemist, but their sound has changed very little between that album and this. Where does the line between doom and rock blur? When explaining doom to the uninitiated I often talk about how similar it is to a certain kind of vintage rock at its core, and it’s really only in the most extreme subgenres of doom, in which the tropes are greatly exaggerated, that it ceases to resemble 70s hard rock.
Channelling the bluesy riffage of Sabbath and the folky psychadelia of Iron Butterfly, but without the
sombre gloominess of the former and the reliance on organs of the latter, all wrapped up in a clean-cut production that’s defined enough to sound reasonably modern, but still cool and analogue enough to adhere to the expected stylistic conventions, Witchcraft are a fine example of a band who skirt the boundary between these superficially disparate, but often very similar genres. If you’ve never heard them before, think of a happier Blood Ceremony, sans flute and keys, and with a male vocalist.
If you liked Witchcraft’s last couple of albums, you’ll like this one. The melodic and easy to listen to vocals of frontman Magnus Pelander still sound much as they ever did, and new members Simon Solomon (guitar), Tom Jondelius (guitar) and Oscar Johansson (drums) haven’t really brought anything new to the table in terms of the way they’re playing Pelander’s music. I’d hazard that the songs lean slightly more to the rock side of things than the doom side of things (see opener ‘Deconstruction’ and the solid stomp of ‘Ghosts House’), but if that is indeed the case the change in the rock/doom ratio is very slight and there’s still plenty of folky introspection evocative of rituals at sunset in the woods, the haunting opening of ‘Dystopia’ being perhaps the best example.
I find myself not really having a lot more to say about this record. Yes, it’s a solid effort. The songs are all half-decent, but it’s not exactly Witchcraft’s magnum opus. The best words I can find to describe it are ‘pleasantly inoffensive’; hardly damning criticism, but not sycophantic praise either. At its core Legend is a Witchcraft album, and not much else. The more I listen to it, the more I see it as “The Alchemist Part 2” as opposed to its own animal. But that implies resolution and continuation of the ideas explored on The Alchemist, and I don’t feel this album is as good as the aforementioned. Not in any concrete way I can point to and say, objectively ‘yes, this is why it is not as good’, but it’s definitely not as satisfying a listen. Have a look if you’re a Witchcraft fan, but it isn’t going to convert you if you’re not.