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Witchcraft - Nucleus


15th January 2016 – Nuclear Blast

01. Malstroem
02. Theory Of Consequence
03. The Outcast
04. Nucleus
05. An Exorcism Of Doubts
06. The Obsessed
07. To Transcend Bitterness
08. Helpless
09. Breakdown

Sweden’s Witchcraft formed in the early 2000′s in order to record a tribute to Pentagram‘s Bobby Leibling. Such was the success of this recording that the band were instantly signed by Rise Above Records. Three albums later and out comes Legend, undeniably the band’s magnum opus – and then radio silence. Questions were raised about Witchcraft: were they still a band? Would there be another album?

The silence was broken with the announcement of Nucleus, but with three solid, middling albums and one masterpiece to their name, which Witchcraft are we getting?

Opening track “Malstroem” clocks in at just over eight minutes, and this Sabbath-soaked blues anthem creeps as slow as molasses but what it lacks in speed it makes up for in pure atmosphere. Whilst the record’s production is decidedly more fuzzy than Witchcraft’s previous output, it retains the same warmth and clarity but with just a bit more bite. “The Outcast“‘s progressive elements at times make it feel like the love child of Blue Oyster Cult and Wishbone Ash in its execution; variation that shows a new, more mature edge that went undiscovered for a very long time.

The fourteen minute title track is by far the stand out. It’s a bold undertaking that sees that progressive edge return. It’s a slow burner, sure, but it joins together the two sides of Witchcraft that previously existed as separate entities from the stoner and blues elements to the psychedelic opulence, and pays respect to The Doors with its brooding and atmospheric smokiness. The heavy and angular riffing comes back for “To Transcend Bitterness” where Magnus Pelander’s vocal shines; its unique and textured quality sets Witchcraft apart from their contemporaries and boy do they know it.

The finale is a strange affair, however. Throughout fifteen-minute epic “Breakdown” you can hear Witchcraft develop into something more than another band in a bloated stoner scene. This will to experiment is admirable and whilst at times it meanders, it always gets to the point it tries so hard to make. Magnus’ vocal is tortured and raw, whist the creeping riffs flow over an undercurrent of reverb. Mass chanting, spoken word and strings also lift this track bringing a more insidious vibe that would be more than welcome on any future Witchcraft release.

Those who are looking for a repeat of the band’s previous efforts will find themselves disappointed. There are glimmers of all of Witchcraft’s history, but Nucleus is a step beyond. It’s decidedly more progressive than its siblings, and has dug its own groove, sitting somewhere between the genres of prog, psychedelic and stoner, and whilst it doesn’t quite live up to the vastness of Legend, Nucleus definitely has its own charms.

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