What goes around comes around, as they say, and 70's-inspired metal is coming around again in a big way. Bands such as Oakland's Saviours and Austin's own The Sword bring a heavier, updated sound to the renaissance, while Sweden's Witchcraft takes a more conventional approach. Indeed, if Witchcraft said they came to us straight from the year 1970 in a time machine, one might even been keen to believe them.
On The Alchemist, Witchcraft have vastly expanded their repertoire. While their first two albums, 2004's Witchcraft and 2005's Firewood, oozed Sabbath and Pentagram, The Alchemist finds Witchcraft exploring Cream to Yes to The Beatles and everything in between. The Alchemist was, as with previous Witchcraft albums, recorded using only analog equipment and one gets the sense that vinyl would be the best format for enjoying its warmth and nuance. Unfortunately, however, the vinyl edition was not yet available at the time of this writing.
The album kicks off with the lively down stroke riffing and 60's-esque tambourine of "Walk Between the Lines" followed by the dramatic, synthesizer-laden "If Crimson Was Your Colour" -- two of the album's strongest songs (and Witchcraft's strongest to date)-- before settling into the cool, confident swing of "Leva."
"Hey Doctor" takes the listener on an rousing journey, beginning in familiar Witchcraft territory with a plodding doom riff before climaxing in an up-tempo jam session, complete with wailing guitar solo and a massive Bonham-esque drum fill.
"Samaritan Burden" opens with a driving, bongo-enhanced beat before settling into a laid back, halftime groove. The verses are absent guitar, which really allows Magnus Pelander's voice to shine. The song's interlude, which finds Pelander's voice sounding decidedly Danzig-esque, features a woodblock in lieu of the standard cowbell, and the song finishes up with a vibrant, Yes-evoking outro.
One of the album's brightest moments-- brighter than anything Witchcraft have done prior -- comes during the intro to "Remembered," but it doesn't last long before they assume a more familiar disposition. Then, Witchcraft defies expectations with a saxophone solo, which meanders nicely over the ostinato of a chromatic guitar riff.
The Alchemist's title track-- an eleven minute, three part suite-- is the album's magnum opus. Here Witchcraft mix varied, disparate influences seamlessly, creating the most mature and expressive music they've ever put to tape and giving us a taste of the heights they may be capable of reaching in the future.
The best music is timeless. The sundry classics of the late 60's and early 70's to which Witchcraft owes a debt of gratitude do not sound dated to the ears of those listening even thirty-some years later. So, too, could it be in a few decades with The Alchemist.