Sweden's Witchcraft have a handful of really strong '70s inspired hard rock & doom albums to their credit, but it was their 2012 Nuclear Blast debut Legend that really seemed to take the metal world by storm, so here we are nearly 4 years later, and can we expect the same sort of thrilling & powerful melancholy with Nucleus? As a band that has been in a constant wave of change from their humble beginnings, Witchcraft seemingly go through slight changes in direction as well as with their line-up from album to album, and Nucleus is no exception. With their one constant, guitarists/vocalist Magnus Pelander, at the helm once again, the band are now a trio, with bassist Tobias Anger and drummer Rage Widerberg rounding out the roster, and Witchcraft have gone for an even doomier, more progressive vibe here on Nucleus, which will certainly please longtime fans and perhaps even bring more to the table.
The 1-2 punch of "Malstroem" and "Theory of Consequence" open up the album in vintage doom fashion, each one the bastard child of the unholy union of Black Sabbath & Pentagram, with monstrous, evil riffs crushing over plodding rhythms and Pelander's commanding, Jim Morrison styled vocal delivery. With some guest flute & organ, the bluesy hard rock of "The Outcast" is cut right out of the Jethro Tull playbook circa Benefit or Aqualung, while the brooding, 14-minute title track brings to mind vintage Sabbath, Wishbone Ash, Scorpions, and The Doors. There are plenty more of those slow, delicious doom riffs on the moody "An Exorcism of Doubt", complete with some tortured vocals and a tasty guitar solo from Pelander, and the band kicks in the groove on the upbeat, boiling "The Obsessed", a real emotional headbanger with a never ending supply of guitar power who all who love the riff. Widerberg makes his presence known on the rumbling "To Transcend Bitterness", his pounding fills bringing to mind vintage Bill Ward or John Bonham on this doom laden heavy rocker. The atmospheric dirge "Helpless" bridges the gap to the near 16-minute "Breakdown", a real departure for the band, squarely in late '60s Jefferson Airplane meets The Doors meets Danzig sort of vibe, as lilting guitars, eerie sound effects, and Pelander's yearning vocals drift through a haze of fog.
If you happen to pick up the digipack version, you'll get two bonus track, the excellent hard rocker "Chasing Rainbows" and a fine cover of Nirvana's "Even In His Youth", which is actually the B-side to the single of "The Outcast". Even without the two bonus tracks, Nucleus is a damn fine album, and while I won't go out and proclaim it Witchcraft's crowning achievement just yet, it's another fantastic entry into their already stellar discography. If you love '70s styled hard rock & doom, this is one album you must hear.
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02. Theory Of Consequence
03. The Outcast
05. An Exorcism Of Doubts
06. The Obsessed
07. To Transcend Bitterness
10. Chasing Rainbows (bonus track)
11. Even In His Youth (bonus track)