Witchcraft - Black Metal review


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Band: Witchcraft
Album: Black Metal
Release date: May 2020

01. Elegantly Expressed Depression
02. A Boy And A Girl
03. Sad People
04. Grow
05. Free Country
06. Sad Dog
07. Take Him Away

Lay down your soul to the gods, rock and roll!

Cronos's demonic Lemmy impersonation, the punky buzzsaw riffs, the flailing percussion, the ridiculous evil imagery - this album is far from perfect, but thrash, death, and black metal would be very different without this album. It's a legend, it's a landmark, and no matter what you say, I'd much rather write a review of that album than the new Witchcraft.

Magnus Pelander, founder, vocalist, and guitarist of the Swedish heavy/doom band Witchcraft, decided several years ago that being the founder, vocalist, and guitarist of the Swedish heavy/doom band Witchcraft was passé and that his future lay in emotional, folk-indebted singer/songwriter-core. In 2016, not long after the release of the last proper Witchcraft album, Pelander released a solo album entitled Time, a clumsy but well-produced attempt at appealing to the Neil Young lovers within Witchcraft's fan base. Apparently that wasn't good enough, because Pelander has appropriated Witchcraft itself for the propagation of this new sound. Now, I'm a newcomer to Witchcraft, but after listening to a few albums, I'm convinced that Nucleus was the band's best effort, a colorful, inventive, proggy stoner metal album whose weakest links were clearly Pelander's vocals and lyrics, so abandoning that approach and stripping away all of the metal until all that remained were Pelander's vocals and lyrics was a choice that ranks somewhere around executing the Mongol ambassador to your country. In other words, bad.

After reducing his band to a single acoustic guitar that sounds like it was picked with chopsticks and his own tenderly stilted vocals, Pelander then took the curious step of naming this weepy solo mopefest Black Metal. Here's the thing about that: black metal already has an Elliot Smith, and it's Mount Eerie. Doom metal also has its own Elliot Smith, and his name is Pat Walker. I even have certain theories about who the Elliot Smith of power metal is, but we'll leave that discussion for when I review the next Manowar album. Right now, we're talking about Witchcraft, a name that must now be associated with one of the most atrocious lapses in self-awareness to afflict a metal band in recent memory, the pile of soporific Weltschmerz mysteriously labeled "black metal."

It takes a lot of gumption to open your album with a track called "Elegantly Expressed Depression." I think it's the prerogative of the audience, not the artist, to decide whether depression has been expressed elegantly; how would you like it if I prefaced this review by claiming that "what follows is elegantly expressed criticism"? Muffling your microphone with a tea cosy and plucking a few passionless Leonard Cohen chords is not a way to express anything elegantly. Pelander aspires to be a crooner, but he is convinced that the way to do this is to hover around the pitch he wants until the phrase is over and spontaneously alter his air flow to give the impression of being spiritually absorbed in his performance. This is called having the blues, so I'm told, and when you have the blues, you're supposed to sing in a faltering rhythm and an affected warble so that your audience will understand how difficult it is for you to express your blues. If you can kick in a whiny falsetto now and then, and if you can trail off to the same pitch after each stanza, all the better.

With respect to the fact that Pelander is singing and writing in a language that is not his mother tongue, his Swedish accent only exacerbates the awkwardness of his musical and verbal phrasing. There is nothing elegant about these lyrical expressions. If you thought that Lulu was a crazy old man mumbling incoherently, just listen to these lugubrious tales that go nowhere, these images without meaning, these risible ramblings - they must mean something to Pelander, but the desultory digressions of "A Boy And A Girl" and "Sad Dog" and the rest sound a lot more like incoherent babbling than heart-wrenching tales of personal trials.

None of the songs are particularly worthy of mention; they're mostly short stretches of guitar filler that routinely slow down for Pelander to lean into his mic and drop some sick verses and then pick up while he thinks about what nonspecific shade of melancholy to express next. The songs are flat and repetitive and they sound like they were recorded in a very small padded room. This should have been a second Magnus Pelander solo album so you and I could have ignored it as would have been appropriate. The fact that this album is being released under the Witchcraft name is just silly. I'm not enough of a fan to claim that this is a betrayal of everything the band stood for, but this doesn't make a lick of sense. And let's be clear: this isn't bad because it's different from old Witchcraft; this is bad AND it's different from old Witchcraft, so why?

At least Time had overdubs and other instruments. Black Metal works up to a couple extra piano keys once or twice. The "rawness" is enervating; no matter how hard he tries, Pelander is not Kurt Cobain or Bulat Okudzhava or whoever he thinks he is, and he'll never be Venom. That's for sure.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 5
Songwriting: 4
Originality: 6
Production: 4


Written on 09.06.2020 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 12   Visited by: 159 users
09.06.2020 - 11:25
God I really missed seeing an SSUS negative review.

Haven't listened to this, and if it's that terrible I'm not sure I wanna do this to myself.
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.

2020 goodies
09.06.2020 - 12:13
Enemy of Reality
Enjoyed their early material but Nucleus was a welcomed change of pace. Really dig that album. But man this new thing is bad. What were they thinking?
09.06.2020 - 12:43
I've only heard two tracks from this one. I agree, it should have been solo. This is not Witchcraft. However, the songs I've heard weren't quite that bad.
09.06.2020 - 14:17
Crème fraiche
Thanks for the review! This makes me sad, I used to love Witchcraft. Sucks to see a few lackluster releases under their belt. I constantly go back to Firewood, self-titles and Alchemist. Nucleus just never clicked with me properly. Thanks for reminding me about Elliot Smith though! I have XO on vinyl, I may go give that a spin instead
09.06.2020 - 14:41
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Sweedes do learn English from 60,s tv movies and series are om original language 40 years or more, and 70 percent are american or British, rest ir norvegian or that weird griblisg danish...
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
09.06.2020 - 14:53
Great review mate, and complete fucking ear-rape of an album. Can't even express how big of a disappointment it is. Nucleus was kinda ''meh'' but this is just.....shit.
09.06.2020 - 20:52
Now THAT is some elegantly expressed criticism.
10.06.2020 - 03:10
The Witchfinder
To paraphrase a quotable notable:

"album SUCKS i go to BED"
10.06.2020 - 06:22
Troy Killjoy
Adding this to my list in hopes of it being so-bad-it's-good like most of my favorite movies.
I have no memory of this place.
16.06.2020 - 09:15
Fallen Ghost
Craft Beer Geek
"She looks like a boy that looks like a girl".. What the hell is this ?
16.06.2020 - 20:47
The Witchfinder
Written by Fallen Ghost on 16.06.2020 at 09:15

"She looks like a boy that looks like a girl".. What the hell is this ?

Can they make it anymore obvious?
He was a punk, she did ballet
What more can they say?
16.06.2020 - 21:02
Cynic Metalhead
Atrocious Virgin
Written by The Witchfinder on 16.06.2020 at 20:47

Written by Fallen Ghost on 16.06.2020 at 09:15

"She looks like a boy that looks like a girl".. What the hell is this ?

Can they make it anymore obvious?
He was a punk, she did ballet
What more can they say?

No, I think she was a punk and he did ballet.

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