Witchcraft - Nucleus - (8/10)
Published on May 7, 2016
I’ve been a longtime follower of Magnus Pelander’s Witchcraft, ever since hearing “No Angel or Demon” over a decade ago, to be honest. It’s been an interesting ride, with the first trio of albums providing a large part of the spark that ignited the whole retro doom metal/psychedelic rock revival thing that has exploded in recent years. Much to the chagrin of fans, the band took an extended break after 2007’s The Alchemist before returning in 2012 with Legend, featuring a completely revamped lineup. Surprisingly, Magnus Pelander’s grand vision of Witchcraft helped create an extremely memorable album that continued in the vein of the original lineup despite the massive lineup overhaul.
Fast forward to early 2016 and Witchcraft return once again; or I should say Pelander returned once again with another completely brand new lineup, which proves what we’ve all guessed at and thought for years, that Witchcraft is basically Pelander plus whoever he decides to bring along. Regardless, the result is Nucleus, the band’s fifth full length album overall and their second for Nuclear Blast Records. While Legend seemed content to mirror the band’s early incantation, Nucleus sees Pelander switching gears for a stronger focus on doom metal and less reliance on revivalist psychedelic rock.
That being said, Nucleus doesn’t completely abandon those psychedelic sounds that filled the band’s early work; instead their worked into short bursts and accoutrements that are wedged between Sabbathian riffs and slow moving dirges with tons of somber melodies. Those hook laden psychedelic riffs are what constantly brought me back for more, like on “If Wishes Were Horses” or “If Crimson Was Your Colour”, especially when combined with Pelander’s crystalline voice, so it was a bit of a shock to hear Witchcraft trudging through the gate at the beginning of the album. Thankfully there are a few tracks that still rock out, like “The Outcast”, as it was enough to push me through the album on those first few playthroughs.
The slower moving, less hook filled nature of the album took more than a few spins to finally worm its way into my good graces, as the slow moving riffing and stomping percussion is executed quite nicely. It’s definitely Sabbathian in nature, yet Pelander is able to inject memorable licks and riffs amid melodic segues and passages. It basically sounds like Witchcraft did before, only darker, and more brooding, and more doomy. Pelander offers a stellar vocal performance, with his voice ringing clearly through the fog, belting out a few earthy, gravelly shouts for good measure. He certainly has one of the best voices in the scene, and his performance here is probably his strongest to date. While the entire album is really quite enjoyable, I find myself looking towards the rollicking, Led Zeppelin meets Pentagram styling of “The Outcast” and head bobbing rhythms of “The Obsessed”.
Witchcraft has crafted one hell of an album, with tons of melody and loads of crunchy slow moving doom. Nucleus is good, but I find myself longing for the more upbeat moments. Regardless, it’s a masterfully constructed album and one that should be lauded. Basically Nucleus is “Witchcraft gone doom” without forgetting their psychedelic roots. Highly recommended to fans of revivalist doom and heavy psyche.