Album Review: Black Metal by Witchcraft (Nuclear Blast)

Swedish doom merchants, Witchcraft, will release their brand new album, Black Metal, on the 1st of May this year via Nuclear Blast.

Black Metal will be the band’s 6th release and 3rd via Nuclear Blast having spent the first half of their tenure under Rise Above Records. Their last release was 2016’s Nucleus so a good 4 year wait for this follow up should see fans eager to lap it up. Witchcraft are very much Magnus Pelander’s band, or so it seems. Pelander, formally of the band Norrsken, formed Witchcraft to record a tribute to Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling and Roky Erickson. The band caught the eye of Rise Above Records and then consistently changed it’s line up through the years with only Pelander staying constant. So much so that he is the only member to feature on Black Metal that also featured on their previous album, Nucleus.

All other members on Black Metal joined in 2017. The band are, Magnus Pelander on vocals and guitars. Also on guitar we have Jon Vegard Naess and Eirik Naess while Vegard Liverod is on the bass and Anders Langset is on the drums.

Witchcraft Black Metal

Black Metal comes with 7 tracks on it and weighs in around the 33 minute mark and is an entirely new direction for the band. The band’s first new album in four years, ‘Black Metal’, is an entirely acoustic release. Emotional, beautiful and depressive, it shows Witchcraft as being at the forefront of the occult rock genre.

We open with the track, Elegantly Expressed Depression. A gentle, sombre acoustic melody plays out. Clean and clear vocals pour emotion out over the acoustic melody. Pelander has a great voice and, combined with the restrained melody, it creates a really passionate soundscape that washes over you. The song’s title really does describe the song perfectly. It is depressive, expressed elegantly. The one thing it isn’t, just in case you were wondering, is Black Metal. Or metal if you take the title literally.

A Boy and a Girl comes next and is a much shorter song at just under 2 minutes in length. It continues on the same vein. A single restrained acoustic melody with depressive vocals plays out a nice, morose song. It is very similar in most aspects, aside from length, to the opener. While nice, it is a very slow start to an album even for an acoustic album. The next song’s title doesn’t give me much optimism for a jump in tempo either, being called Sad People.

Sad People does have some nice melody but continues to offer it up slowly and in tiny pieces. Nothing takes away from the fact that Magnus Pelander’s vocals have a way of getting into your head and affecting you emotionally. The guitars act as a support instrument to his vocals it feels. The problem for me is that it really is quite a change for Witchcraft as a band. If it had been billed as Pelander’s solo work, it would have made perfect sense but for the band? Are they even there?

Grow is the longest track on the album at nearly 8 minutes long but is more of the same. Again, don’t get me wrong “the same” is obviously quality. His vocals are brilliant, the guitar melodies are nice and together they create a depressive and encompassing sound but, in truth, I am bored. Free Country manages to take the slowly delivered melody and amazingly deliver it even slower. Again, it sounds fantastic and you have to take a step back and appreciate the pure talent on show though you also have to accept some things aren’t for you. As Pelander sings the line “I know you are probably tired of listening to my requiem” I find myself agreeing.

Sad Dog is the penultimate track and has a little tiny bit more to the beautiful guitar melodies that I enjoyed quite a bit but little else for me. The album ending, Take Him Away closes out exactly the same way. Slow, gentle brooding melody with gloriously sad vocals. It is morose, morbid and deserves respect, as does the whole album but for someone who prefers a bit of crunch and tempo to their music, this isn’t my jam.

The positives are in the obvious talent of the man but I fail to see how this is a band’s album. It isn’t. It is Pelander’s solo material and no one else features on the album that I can hear. The vocals, they are amazing. The guitars are beautiful and sad but also quite boring. A single track from this album could easily feature as a change of direction on any Witchcraft album and it would be a breath of fresh air. A whole album of it is too much. I completely understand that a lot of people will adore this and admire it. It is right that they should. From a talent perspective, it is admirable. It is a matter of personal taste. For me, it goes against my musical preferences mostly but you should definitely check I tout. It my be right up your street.

You can preorder a copy of Black Metal now from Nuclear Blast, here.

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Black Metal by Witchcraft (Nuclear Blast)
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