Reviews for September 25th, 2012

Witchcraft – Legend

Witchcraft, a psychedelic/doom rock band from Sweden, has been one of my favorite bands in the style since the release of 2007’s “The Alchemist.” Now they are back with their fourth album, “Legend” and I could not wait to get my hands on it.

On previous albums Witchcraft had a fairly clean sound; the guitars, while heavy, were not loaded down with lots of fuzz. They were a mix of clean and a slightly distorted tone, which definitely sounded straight out of the 70s. “Deconstruction”, the first track on “Legend” comes right out with some of the heaviest sounding guitar I have heard from these guys. It certainly is not heavy on the level of say Black Sabbath, but it definitely has more bite.

The second track, “Flag of Hate” returns to a more typical Witchcraft sound. It never occurred to me before, but this track gives me a Blue Oyster Cult style vibe.

Far too many doom and psychedelic influenced bands these days put out music that sounds muddy and sloppy. Whether that is due to budget or just because they think it sounds retro, I really could not say, but it is nice to hear Witchcraft throw down some great songs that also sound clear and professional.

If you have not yet heard of Witchcraft, now is a great time to get on board. I have no doubt that this will make my list of the best albums of 2012. I will be playing the shit out of this album and I encourage everyone else to do the same.

Check out the track “It’s Not Because Of You.”

Castle – Blacklands

Since we are already in the doomish neighborhood, what say we head over and check out Castle. Hailing from San Francisco, California, we have Castle and their second album “Blacklands.”

Castle is somewhat similar to Witchcraft in that they both play a retro sounding doom rock. “Blacklands” comes across as a little more heavy and a little less produced. The former is cool, the latter I would prefer they work on. The other major difference is that Castle is female fronted by vocalist/bass player Elizabeth Blackwell.

Ever since Ghost became popular there have been retro sounding bands popping up left and right, and I have heard a fair share that have been fronted by women. Not that their gender has anything to do with it, but I really have not cared for most of them. I think the ones I have not enjoyed were probably spending too much effort on making a dark, evil and retro sounding record rather than a good record.

I get a completely different feeling from “Blacklands.” This sounds like a well thought-out record and I like it quite a bit. The music is very cool and I like how Elizabeth sounds singing over top of it. It blends nicely.

My only real complaint, as I have already mentioned, is that I would like to hear a slightly cleaner production. This is nitpicking at this point, and I am aware of this, but indulge me. The production on “Blacklands” is certainly acceptable, but after listening to the latest Witchcraft, I would love to hear Castle’s next album have a production like “Legend.”

Check out the video for “Blacklands.”

Midnight – Complete and Total Hell

The production quality only gets worse from here. Listening to Midnight’s second album, “Complete and Total Hell” I do cringe over the sound quality, but I am not such a total studio snob as to turn my nose up at it. These songs are just raw enough to satisfy those who prefer their metal uncooked, and just produced enough not to sound like total crap.

I remember hearing of several people praising last year’s “Satanic Royalty” album, but I had overlooked it because I thought it was another solo album from that dude from Crimson Glory (I did not know until just now actually, that Midnight died in 2009.) So when the promo came around for “Complete and Total Hell” I figured I better give it a listen.

Well, as it turns out, this is not truly a new album. It is actually a compilation of tracks going all the way back to the bands inception in 2003. That heads off the complaint that these songs sound like they were recorded during different sessions lol. Well, fuck. Now I am mad I do not have “Satanic Royalty” loaded up on my iPod so I can see how 2011 Midnight compares to 2003.

I can say that I am in fact bobbing my head quite a bit to this collection, so if it only gets better from here then I definitely want to hear more. I am currently cut off from my music collection, except for what is on my iPod, as my Mac has shit the bed and died screaming. Once Apple fixes me up and I get everything back in order I will be sure to check out more Midnight. For the rest of you, here is “White Hot Fire.”

Revtend – Welcome to Hell

For the final artist of the day, from Portugal, we have thrash band Revtend and their first full-length album, “Welcome to Hell.”

Revtend bring today’s collective production value back up a few notches while still sounding like “Welcome to Hell” was recorded twenty years ago. These guys sound rather like a mash-up of early Metallica and Testament. Some douchebag reviewers will complain and say this is too derivative and not original. We critics are known to be like that. Sorry. But me, I am digging “Welcome to Hell.”

While I am always searching for the next great sound in metal, I refuse to dismiss the styles that brought me into the metal fold in the first place. Personally I thought the original thrash scene received far too short a life cycle before Grunge came along and killed everything, so when a band comes along that fucking nails the old style, I get behind them 100%. And I am behind Revtend 100%. These guys sound great to me.

The Bay Area may have put thrash on the map, but the U.S. has largely moved on from old school thrash (no disrespect to the mighty Warbringer and other U.S. metal brethren.) The rest of the world still seems to carry the torch, and today that torch is burning brightly in Portugal. Hails to Revtend! Keep doing what you do brothers!

Check out the track “Raging Skies.”