Immediately, the differences between Last Tribe’s debut album, The Ritual, and the Swedish progressive-metal quartet’s sophomore effort, Witch Dance, are noticeable — even palpable. More memorable songs, more dominant keyboards and more impassioned playing make Witch Dance a much more enjoyable and intense listening experience that never lets up.
With nary a dud track on it (excluding "The Gathering," the throwaway instrumental opener), this album satisfies on several levels. Guitarist, keyboardist and band mastermind Magnus Karlsson effortlessly blends his instruments into a powerhouse sound that doesn’t allow one instrument to dominate. Plus, new drummer Jaime Salazar (ex-Flower Kings) and bass player Dick Lowgren are considerably better musicians than the guys they replaced, infusing these songs with extra gusto not heard on Last Tribe’s debut. Such songs as the title track, "Messenger," "Bring Out the Brave" and "Behind Your Eyes" are loaded with stunning intros, majestic choruses and intricate arrangements, and singer Rickard Bengtsson’s voice is neither sharply annoying nor over-the-top — as is so typical of the genre. Credibility is thus restored to Karlsson, whose Midnight Sun project released the embarrassing heap known as Metal Machine last year.
About the only area in which this album doesn’t trump The Ritual is with the ballads, and that’s because no track here really qualifies as a ballad. Yet, you don’t get the feeling that something’s missing. That’s the sign of an effective album.