Let me tell you a little story. The year is 2004. The Doom scene is divided, with purists hailing the increasing power of bands such as ORODRUIN and REVEREND BIZARRE and the more liberal Doomsters fascinated over the latest MY DYING BRIDE and ESOTERIC records. All around, fans are stoked for the upcoming releases by classic bands such as CANDLEMASS, SOLITUDE AETURNUS and TROUBLE. Of course, two out of the three of those aren’t out yet at the time of this writing, but hey, you’ve got to be patient with Doom. Anyway, back to the story…unexpectedly, a little-known group from Sweden releases a record on Rise Above Records and deliver a whack to the back of the Doom community’s collective head. Who was this band, this band who so well emulates the divine works of BLACK SABBATH and PENTAGRAM? Then a bunch of cybernetic ninjas destroyed the world.
Well, maybe that last part was my own embellishment, but the answer to the question was WITCHCRAFT. Reaching back to the roots of Doom, the roots of Metal and then going even further back, WITCHCRAFT created a slab of moody retro-Doom which would have PENTAGRAM fans either rocking out in the sub-basements or cursing the band as nothing but unimaginative plagiarists. The truth is, WITCHCRAFT started as a tribute to Bobby Liebling (PENTAGRAM) and they make no qualms with letting his influence shine through in their own original work. Of course, this isn’t just straight-up PENTAGRAM rip-offery; it’s more like what you would get if you put PENTAGRAM, BLACK SABBATH, JETHRO TULL and maybe a smidgen of the ROLLING STONES and the DOORS in a blender and mixed it all up, creating the nice soupy mixture that is WITCHCRAFT.
The songs are slow and heavy, though not exceptionally so. Nope, WITCHCRAFT are pretty tame musically, forgoing today’s competition to see who can be the most extreme and focusing instead on creating some awesome vintage-sounding tunes. To capture the proper feeling, the album was recorded in a basement on 70’s equipment, which really gives the music not just a retro feel, but an authentic one as well. Don’t expect very strong production, especially on the vocals, which is a shame since Magnus Pelander’s vocals deserve a lot more than the muffled recording found here.
Simply put, this is an awesome record. Many would question its Metalness and Doomitude and yeah, if you go into WITCHCRAFT expecting to be crushed under the weight of a thousand riffs, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. If all you want is great music and there’s at least a part of you that enjoys the work of SABBATH or PENTAGRAM, look no further than tracks like “Witchcraft,” “The Snake,” and “No Angel Or Demon.” Pure class! (Online November 13, 2005)