That Swedish band Witchcraft formed 12 years ago just to record a tribute song for their heroes in Washington, D.C. – Black Sabbath worshippers Pentagram – is interesting enough. That they’ve since evolved into one of the most heralded bands on the psychedelic doom circuit is even more intriguing. But the fact that Witchcraft have survived the departures of three members and returned with their strongest and heaviest album to date is reason to believe in a higher (or lower) power.
Five years have passed since the band released its third record, The Alchemist, and while Witchcraft still summons the darkened atmospheres of Pentagram, the mystical rural feel of Jethro Tull and the bluesy swagger of Led Zeppelin, they’ve expanded their sonic horizons even further on Legend, and improved their songwriting in the process. New guitarists Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius provide extra dimension by combining the band’s ’70s-sounding, semi-distorted riffs with crunchier, more contemporary playing, which allows the band to drift back and forth between heavy-lidded jams and wide-eyed metallic romps.
“Deconstruction” begins with spacious, lava-lamp-hued rocking before shifting into a chugging Sabbath workout. Then the tempo drops to snail’s pace while shimmering waves of guitar wash across the sonic landscape. “An Alternative to Freedom” is redolent of Zep’s “When The Levee Breaks” crossed with Deep Purple’s “Pictures of Home.” And the 12-minute album closer “Dead End” is dizzying progressive stoner rock driven by surging instrumentation, asymmetrical tempos and expansive, droning bass lines. Credit producer Jens Bogren (Opeth, Amon Amarth), for complimenting Witchcraft’s increased ebb and flow without allowing them to sound disjointed. Band founder and vocalist Magnus Pelander also gets major props for his delivery, which ranges from the soulful melodic style of Vanilla Fudge’s Mark Stein to the baritone howls of Glenn Danzig. While a growing legion of young doom bands are suddenly turning heads, Legend proves that Witchcraft are survivors and illustrates why they’ve long had the open ear of those in the know.