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Witchcraft - The Alchemist

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Artist: Witchcraft

Album: The Alchemist

Label: Candlelight

Review date: Dec. 6, 2007

There comes a time when imitation will simply no longer do. Swedish stoner-rock ensemble Witchcraft, once darlings among fans of throwback riffery, have long since passed that point.

The band’s self-titled debut was a charmingly lo-fi nod to the hairy daddies of bong-fueled metal, namely Black Sabbath (and to a lesser degree, Budgie). The follow-up, Firewood, revealed a band too concerned with slavishly copping the moves of their ’70s idols to serve up anything terribly original. It was fun for a spin or two, but there was no real reason to go back for extra helpings.

Witchcraft’s latest, The Alchemist, suffers from the same lack of vision. Vocalist/guitarist Magnus Pelander does a fairly convincing job of sounding like a Birmingham factory worker who gets off late night with his SG guitar, and the band might as well have recorded on vintage analog gear in a candlelit studio bedecked with skulls. But last time I checked, all the vintage Sab records were still in print, so this shit is mostly superfluous.

Mostly. Occasionally, Pelander and the gang manage to coax something resembling actual dynamism out of their mid-tempo guitar/bass/drums oblations. “Samaritan Burden” mixes things up a bit with a somewhat funky drums-bongo-bass intro, later augmented by yet another Sabbath-esque riff and an uncommonly seductive vocal from Pelander. That is, if you consider a cross between Maynard Keenan and Glenn Danzig beguiling.

“Remembered” also shows some slight spunk – its spry boogie-woogie intro has more in common with Ronnie James Dio’s first group Elf than it does with the better-known act for which he’d later become the replacement singer.

Speaking of Dio, it’s telling that his output with Sabbath 2.0 is more compelling than anything found on The Alchemist. In fact, after this snoozefest, I was primed for some Mob Rules and its more energizing bombast.

And that’s just too bad, because Witchcraft clearly have the musical technique to transcend their influences and perhaps bring something fresh to the genre. That their third full-length fails to show progress in this direction is jut plain frustrating. If there’s a Philosopher’s Stone of heirloom metal, these would-be alchemists have yet to uncover it. More time in the lab is recommended.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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