Monday, 18 January 2016

Album Review: Witchcraft - Nucleus (2016)

Witchcraft - Nucleus
I wasn't expecting much from this when I first saw it scheduled for release. That's not to say that I dislike Witchcraft, its just that there's only so much retro-occult-trendy Sabbath inspired doom that I can stomach. Witchcraft have a great ear for melody and a distinctive vocalist in Magnus Pelander, and I was expecting a similarly melodic hard-rock sounding album following on from their 2012 release Legend.

From the moment the first riff in 'Maelstrom' hit me I realised my preconceived judgments were wrong. Nucleus is a much more aggressive, downbeat, melancholic album; its dirtier and heavier than Legend, in fact it has some of the heaviest stuff they've ever done. It's partly psychedelic Sabbath worship with soulful blues and David Gilmour-esque guitar solos but it also has a sludgy and melancholic heaviness similar to that of more recent Katatonia and Anathema. 

'Maelstrom' an eight minute opener of plodding doom that slowly builds,  has the textured sparsity of Saint Vitus and the feel of early Sabbath and as the song progresses quicker riffs, forlorn vocals and heavy drumming swirl to powerfully. I never expected such oppressiveness from Witchcraft,

'Nucelus' at fourteen-minutes begins with an occult rock sound akin to Pentagram, before delving into a regal sounding epic with melodies not to different from Pallbearer's Sorrow and Extinction. Pelander's vocals on this album - and this song in particular - are much more forceful and wild, often building from sweet melodies to exasperated gruffness, and for this heavier retro-doom sound his vocals are really great. Flutes, (taken from a secret Jethro Tull album it seems), keyboards and an acoustic interlude build as a downcast group chant leads into a guitar solo and, to be honest, a rather flat ending.

The final track, 'Breakdown', at nearly 16-minutes, is an absolute monster of a song and by itself notches my rating up by a few points. After opening with eerie droning sound,s akin to Earth, and slow, downcast vocals the amps crackle and the voice of Sylvia Plath reads from 'The Stones': 'Drunk as a foetus, | I suck at the paps of darkness [...] This is the after hell, | I see the light.' leading to creaking riffs that sound on the verge of exploding and there really is a foreboding sense of that everything is about to fall apart; the vocal delivery becomes more erratic as Pelander sings of ‘a sick black smoke stored in my cells, coming out of me | I’m possessed, undigested, it dwells deep inside of me.’ as the guitar screech and whimper and the drums pound like slabs of meat and even at one point the vocals turn to semi-whimpers similar to those of Niklas Kvarforth of Shining. 

It's a long album at one hour and nine minutes - maybe too long. The longer songs are broken up by shorter, more hard rock based songs and I feel this juxtaposition is to the albums detriment. With the omission of a few songs the album, in my opinion, would be a more compact, focused and heavy album.The shorter songs on the album, although decent enough, distract a listener from the heavy, oppressive atmosphere of some of the longer songs.

Rating: 7.5/10

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