Sound: The Witchcraft CD lying on my desk is a bit of an oddity. On one hand, it's an attempt (a brilliant one) at recreating the sound of classic '70s doom; Sabbath, Pentagram, the like. The detail is painstaking, and it's your classic doom with no gimmicks. Strong riffs, solid meat-and-potatoes songwriting, tasty and short leads, it's all there. On the other hand, it's released in 2007. So, does it hold up? Is it a relevant album that justifies it's existence? Absolutely. In fact, this is one of the few examples of doom revival that goes beyond the mere nostalgia, and delivers an album full of strong, catchy tracks. Varying between slower, sludgy and mid-paced driving riffs, The Alchemist maintains the attention of the listener throughout the playing time.
Despite sounding like it should have been written about 40 years ago (which is not a bad thing, believe me), the album possesses outstanding production values. Everything can be clearly heard, the instruments are well separated, and the record sounds bright and uplifting. Guitars have a very smooth warm tone to them, the bass is typical bass from a doom/hard rock albums of the respective time, with melodic lines supporting the overall sound.
Hey Doctor and Samaritan Burden are the best examples of the sludgy and slow moments, setting a more contemplative mood. The opening riffs launch into a very brooding, gloomy atmosphere, Remembered lifts the pace back up, and interestingly brings a saxophone into the mix to spice things up. The instrumentation overall is quite basic, but there are occasional twists like the abovementioned saxophone or a vintage organ for extra ear candy. Fortunately they don't mess with the classic doom feel, and are very tastefully executed. // 8
Lyrics: Vocals go perfectly with the music. Great production means the vocals aren't drowned in the instruments, and come through very clearly. Lyrics touch on a few different themes, ranging from occult to personal struggles, but are quite well written. The kind of the subjects in the songs can come off cheesy, but Pelander avoids this. Generally the writing has progressed from the previous two albums too, which is always a good thing. The delivery is consistent from song to song, staying within the general range without really straying beyond the set boundaries. All in all, the vocals are like the rest of the album, they deliver exactly the punch that's required. Nothing more, nothing less. // 8
Overall Impression: If you missed Pentagram or Black Sabbath in their time, then this band is for you. Recording on all-analogue set-up has paid off, to give the album a genuine sound that will strike a tear in the fans of '70s doom, and give a chance to anyone who missed that period to indulge in it's best aspects. The Alchemist is on a mission to bring the listener right back to the good ol' days when distortion was pretty much unheard of. In fact only one or two songs use some overdrive. At the same time, this sounds convincing -- Witchcraft are one of the few bands that manage to pull off the direct descendents of Sabbath and St Vitus without sounding like a pretentious clone. The band indeed sounds like a band; in other words one unit with a single purpose, rather than a bunch of musicians playing their part in unison with the rest. Many bands strive for this sort of coherence, and far from all achieve. Witchcraft achieves this goal.
As mentioned previously, this is the sort of an album that delivers no more and no less than it sets out to achieve. The authentic tones are really impressive, and in these times of digital production actually make The Alchemist somewhat unique. The songwriting and composition have progressed from previous records, however, and it will be interesting to see where this album will lead the band in the future. I also think they establish that this traditional sound is a viable venture even in these times of precision and computer production. One of the main things to note is this album is genuinely enjoyable; universal in appeal, it sets a fairly positive mood, and is definitely worth the money spent. // 8