Monday, September 17, 2007

Witchcraft "The Alchemist" review

"The Alchemist"
Rise Above Records
Oct. 23
AUGUSTA, GA. - Every now and then, an album comes along that you can tell, simply by listening to the first 20 seconds, that it’s going to be a masterpiece. It oozes that vibe, but the purpose is clear; your course is charted for you in the first riffs, though you know full well you’re going to encounter detours, dead ends, and possibly a lyre-strumming goblin or two along the way.

Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. Savoy Brown’s Looking In. Dillinger Escape Plan’s Miss Machine. Isis’ Oceanic…and anything by Between the freakin’ Buried and Me.

Add Witchcraft’s The Alchemist to that list. Though the Cream-leaning Swedes have been laying down doomy, incessant grooves for going on six years now, this newest effort finds the band at its creative peak, finally nailing a psychedelic stride.

There is in every song a seamless union of laissez-faire and unrelenting heaviness, its cohesiveness largely owing to the dudes’ knack for deceptive and aggressive melodies. From the first overlapping Keef-meets-Iommi riffs of “Walk Between the Lines,” to the fuzzed-out conclusion of the 14-minute title epic, your mind will feel like its swimming in mud…soon as you climb out, though, you’ll realize your foot was tapping the entire time.

The guitar tandem of Magnus Pelander and John Hoyles is what might have happened had George Harrison hooked up with Matt Pike in the early 70s. These guys are a riff factory…period. A wall of low-end density one minute, and a barrage of wah-tinged leads the next, they don’t need B-tuned guitars or “death” settings on a Line 6 amp to leave your skull absolutely cleft in twain. Witness “Hey Doctor” and “If Crimson Was Your Colour” for some particularly blunt examples.

And oh yeah…let’s not forget Ola Henriksson whomping your psyche upside its head with the fattest effing bass lines since Ginger Baker, or Fredrik Hansson flat-out abusing his kit, not to mention threatening your personal well-being, with his thunderous Bonham-on-quaaludes beats.

With The Alchemist, Witchcraft have moved beyond the musical cubicle of “stoner rock” or “throwback;” they’ve created something timeless, something so absolutely all-encompassing, that it will undoubtedly hold its own against any metal opus or thud-rock masterwork already included in the hard rock canon. Ladies and gents—this is how you do it.

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