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Witchcraft - Nucleus

  • Published in Albums

Witchcraft don’t do anything quickly. It’s been nearly four years since Legend, and there was a five year wait for that.

Magnus Pelander is back with a brand new line up, and back playing guitar for the band after focusing solely on vocals for the previous album.

This is stoner/doom metal/classic rock with a direct line from Black Sabbath. The Swedes incorporate a subtly experimental grungy underbelly, counterpointing the simplicity of the repeating riffs and ensuring that it never becomes boring or predictable during the elongated breakdown grooves.

The production is excellent. The traditional four piece setup is clearly audible and not masked by any studio trickery. There is little noticeable overdubbing. There are no bells and whistles, just memorable riffs, dynamic music and epic songs.

On first listen it sounds simple, pure, and raw like a Steve Albini record.  But further spins reveal new layers. Strings samples, a flautist, and additional vocals supplement the spare arrangements, and squealing, effected guitars howl discordant harmonies to the seriously crunchy power chords.

Magnus' guitar shrieks feedback between chords like Billy Corgan’s on the early Smashing Pumpkins stuff. The blunt, bludgeoning riffs smell like Nirvana’s Bleach. Witchcraft went as far as covering the Seattle trio's ‘Even In His Youth’ for the B-side of the first single from Nucleus.

The music may be Sabbath influenced but the vocal inflections are more like those of Robert Plant or Muse's Matt Bellamy. Some of the guitar licks are Zeppelin-esque too and there are shades of NWOBHM in the clean arpeggios and live-sounding, heavily overdriven guitars.

There’s no fast, fretboard shredding riffs or double bass drums. Megadeth’s early period slower numbers like ‘In My Darkest Hour’ come to mind while listening. Witchcraft are not for everyone but if you like your rock slow and moody, then this will be hard to beat.

When you hear so many bands trying too hard to appear interesting, layering track upon track in a vain attempt to entertain it is both a shock and a relief to hear a band that can do the simple things and do them well.

Witchcraft have embraced the vinyl renaissance releasing the album on double LP. There are only nine tracks in total, but ‘Nucleus’ and ‘Breakdown’ each take up one side of a record by themselves.

‘Malstroem’ is a strong introduction to the album and ‘Theory Of Consequence’ rattles by in a ‘70s blues-rock blur. Lead single ‘The Outcast’ is a cracking tune in two movements, the second of which is a dead ringer for Martha And The Muffins ‘Echo Beach’.

‘Nucleus’ is the first of two epics on the album and is heavy, melodic, tuneful, and massively enjoyable. After 14 minutes of the title track, side three is a bit of a comedown. The drive and imagination falter a bit but the gargantuan ‘Breakdown’ prevents the album from petering out.

It’s those two Brobdingnagian monsters that make this record into something greater than the sum of its individual songs. Given such space to breathe and flourish they explore musical territory that one might not expect from Witchcraft, without succumbing to Onanistic prog.

Overall, Nucleus is listenable, accessible, likeable, and just superb. With this album Witchcraft have set the bar for 2016 and it will take something special to raise it.

Nucleus is available from amazon and iTunes.


Kadavar - Berlin

  • Published in UNX


Lou Reed's 1973 album, Berlin, is a concept album which chronicles the tumultuous relationship between two lovers against a highly orchestrated and emotionally evocative musical backdrop. It's the musical equivalent of a John Cassavetes film and regularly appears in serious critic's all-time great lists.

The fantastical lyrics and string bending riffs of Kadavar's third album, Berlin, pretty much guarantee it's exclusion from any critics end of year list. And those lists will be poorer for its absence.

From the opening bars, Berlin packs the type of riffs that punch you in the gut, make your pelvis thrust and your neck pop. It's impossible to hear it and not think of Black Sabbath's early albums. The similarities are too obvious not to be deliberate. The bass sound which is pure Geezer Butler, the drumming style which owes all to Bill Ward, and even the old school stereo mix all combine to give the full effect of early ‘70s hard rock and metal. Christoph "Lupus" Lindemann's vocals are so like Sabbath's original singer that he sounds more like Ozzy Osborne than the man himself has for 20 years.

There are shades of Led Zeppelin and The Who in the guitars and stoner rock licks that could sit comfortably alongside the likes of Kyuss or Monster Magnet. But one must imagine that for Kadavar, every practice session takes in at least one rendition of ‘Sweet Leaf’ or ‘Never Say Die’.

‘Lord Of The Sky’ opens the record and sets the tone with a lush and sleazy single note riff pattern from Lupus before easing down into the aforementioned gut punching groove. Lupus’ smooth, melodic vocals paint dreamscapes amid the stomping rhythms. ‘Last Living Dinosaur’ and ‘Thousand Miles Away From Home’ are rich in power chord pummelling, vocal hooks, and splashy cymbals.

Berlin is an album of two halves. The first half is a kind of rock 'n' roll jukebox offering straight up rockers and stomping bluesy tunes. The second is more experimental, with the feeling that the band have done the hard work of crowd pleasing and are ready to unleash their progressive, psychedelic side. It gets very ‘Planet Caravan’-y and super trippy. All of which means that listening to the album the whole way through is quite a schizophrenic experience; making it all the more authentically psychedelic.

The band look very much like they sound; all long hair, long beards, and air- guitar faces set to stun. They are barely visible in their promo pics through the thick fug of smoke and you can nearly smell it coming out of the speakers as the record plays. Last year's tour with fellow hard-rockers Wolfmother seems to have spurred the Germans on to new heights. Kadavar have taken the baton from Black Sabbath and run it into new territory. Auf geht's!

Berlin is available from amazon & iTunes. 

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