If you thought that Witchcraft would have a hard time topping their last release Firewood, well, you will be pleasantly surprised once you pop their new one The Alchemist in your CD player. From the opening seconds, it's apparent that the Swedes have once again honed in on that 70's vibe again here on The Alchemist, as the spirit of such acts as Black Sabbath, The Doors, Black Widow, Atomic Rooster, and Led Zeppelin permeate these seven tracks. As with Firewood, once again it's all about the riffs, and there's plenty of them here.
The guitar work of both vocalist Magnus Pelander and John Hoyles seems lifted out of another time, as the irresistible riffs on songs like "Walk Between the Lines", "If Crimson Was Your Colour" (which also features some great analog keyboards from Producer Tom Hakava), and "Leva" combines psychedelia with hard rock and doom perfectly. Pelander's vocals are especially strong once again, as he invokes images of Pentagram's singer Bobby Liebling as well as Jim Morrison. He's extra venomous on the heavy "Hey Doctor", a song that also features an assortment of evil guitar riffs that will instantly have you banging your head and raising your fist in the air. New drummer Fredrik Jansson struts his stuff on the psychedelic "Samaritan Burden", and "Remembered" has an almost bluesy/funk feel not unlike early Grand Funk Railroad, which is something a little different from Witchcraft. The epic 14-minute title track drips with melancholy and despair, featuring spooky Mellotron & organ, heavy riffs, psychedelic and progressive passages, and tons of atmosphere. Hoyles really impresses on this one, as he drops in layers of acoustic guitars, crushing electric riffs, and searing solos. It's a haunting piece that proves to be a wonderful closing to this very enjoyable album, and shows that the band is equally confident creating hard rock songs that incorporate folk and prog leanings as they are with 70's doom.
It's virtually impossible to not recommend The Alchemist, especially to those that miss the juicy hard rock days of the early 70's. Witchcraft have shown here that they know how to capture that sound quite well, but that they can offer up more than just dark doom, as this one features plenty of prog, folk, psychedelic, and blues elements as well. Highly recommended.
1. Walk Between the Lines
2. If Crimson was Your Colour
4. Hey Doctor
5. Samaritan Burden
7. The Alchemist