Friday Full-Length: Witchcraft, Witchcraft

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Witchcraft, Witchcraft (2004)

I know the retro thing is getting kind of played out at this point with a lot of bands trying their best to sound like the heavy ’70s, and that even Witchcraft themselves moved on from the sound with last year’s Nuclear Blast debut, Legend (review here), but man, when their self-titled debut came out in 2004, it was a fucking revelation. It’s funny to think of a record that was trying to sound like classic albums becoming one, but I think you can point to the first Witchcraft as a major contributor to kickstarting the retro rock scene in Europe in the middle of the last decade. The 2005 follow-up, Firewood, would smooth out the aesthetic somewhat, but even that has to be a factor, and although so much has come along since one way or another working in a similar vein, these songs still have a swing to them that very few others have been able to capture. They were both behind the times and ahead of them.

Thanks to everyone so far who’s added a list to the Top 20 of 2013 Readers Poll! We’re over 120 contributions already and it’s hugely appreciated. I can’t wait to see which record comes out on top. Seriously. I’m such a nerd for this it’s ridiculous.

As George Carlin once asked, “What the hell am I doing in New Jersey?” It’s a fair question. I came down from Massachusetts on Wednesday night to see a couple shows and handle some work stuff that couldn’t be done remotely. Last night was Mountain God and Eggnogg in Brooklyn, tonight’s The Golden Grass and Weird Owl, also in Brooklyn. I wanted to close out the week before I headed into the city, and I might try to grab some dinner before I cross the river, which I don’t doubt will make the whole evening a more pleasant experience. Gotta get all my Jersey eats in while I can, even if it means more driving.

Tomorrow morning I’ll split out as early as I can stand it (and stand up) and head back north. I was thinking about trying to make the drive tonight, but it seems like that might be a false economy. Getting home so I can crash out until sometime tomorrow afternoon certainly has its appeal, but I’m pretty sure I’d be tired through the next week if I did that, then once you get into the holidays everything’s only more of a mess — one that, indeed, will include a trip south on I-95 — so maybe conserving energy as much as I can is the better course. Turns out I’m not 20 years old anymore. Funny how that works.

Next week I’ll be seeing both Monster Magnet and Queens of the Stone Age, so I should have reviews up accordingly. I’ll also have one for tonight’s The Golden Grass show, which I’ve been much anticipating, an overdue look at some Tia Carrera vinyl from Small Stone, I’m sure a bunch more fest news, and whatever else rears its head. This trip’s been such constant movement. It’ll be good to get back home.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whatever you might be up to.  Thank you again. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Desertfest Berlin 2013 Announces Witchcraft as Third Headliner; Danava and Lecherous Gaze Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The linup for Desertfest in Berlin gets a little more unfuckwithable with the addition of Witchcraft in a headlining spot. Danava and Lecherous Gaze were also added over the course of the last couple days, and the fest sent over a couple announcements. Desertfest Berlin 2013 is set for April 25-27 at the Astra Kulturhaus, and the list of bands is monstrous with Unida, Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man representing the Californian desert scene while Euro heavy answers back with classics like Lowrider and Dozer and newcomers Kadavar and Belzebong. Not much more you can really ask of three days of doom and music.

As seen on the Berlin Desertfest website:

WITCHCRAFT (SWE) – 3rdHeadliner !!

After a 5 year wait for all the fans that have been watching out for a new sign of life, the Swedish band WITCHCRAFT have marked the fall of 2012 with their new album ! And we are thrilled to say they will mark 2013 by playing at the DesertFest Berlin on Saturday 27th !!

From Örebro, Sweden, WITCHCRAFT was founded in 2000 when Magnus Pelander wanted to record PENTAGRAM tribute album. It took until 2002 when the band finally released a first single which caught the ear of Lee Dorian’s label, Rise Above Records, who quickly signed them. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2004, followed by their 2nd one “Firewood” in 2005, and “The Alchemist” in 2007. They manifested their very seventies-esque distinctive signature sound that made WITCHCRAFT known as Swedish finest psychedelic/classic rock band that helped to spearhead the now very bright Swedish rock scene.

After a five year break, WITCHCRAFT released in September 2012 their 4th studio album “Legend” on a new label, Nuclear Blast. The new album marked the recording debut of the band’s new members, including Simon Solomon (guitar), Tom Jondelius (guitar), and Oscar Johansson (drums), with singer Magnus Pelander focusing only on vocals instead of both vocals and guitar. Now a double-guitar five-piece, WITCHCRAFT reinvented their sound and shirked off most of the vintage stylization that marked their previous work and boldly opted for something new and heavier. And they delivered the most rocking album of their career!

DANAVA (USA)

To start this rocking new year, we are very happy to announce that DANAVA comes back in Europe in April/May, and will play at the DESERTFEST BERLIN!!! DANAVA is a band based out of Portland, Oregon, that has been steadily rising in the metal underground over the past eight years. The band turned heads with a a lysergic cocktail of stoner sludge, prog pomp, and rocket blastoffs!

They released 3 full-length albums in the past, the self-titled debut in 2006, “UnonoU” in 2008, and “Hemisphere Of Shadows” in 2011, all three on Kemado Records. Through the latter part of the decade, DANAVA also toured with the likes of Witchcraft, Voivod, The Melvins, Acid Mothers Temple, and Down (who have invited the band out three times now.) In 2012, they made an European tour with Saviours including Roadburn Festival!

Now it’s time for them to play at the DesertFest ! Get ready to enjoy their bombastic sound!!

 

LECHEROUS GAZE (USA)

Some of you maybe guessed when we announced Danava : LECHEROUS GAZE is added to the DesertFest’s line-up!! The history of LECHEROUS GAZE goes back to 2001 when guitarist Graham Clise and bassist Chris Grande started the hardcore punk band, Annihilation Time. After several personnel shake-ups, the band chose to lay the name to rest and begin with another project. They re-emerged with a new vocalist under the name LECHEROUS GAZE.

And after a few more line-up changes, the band released a self-titled 4 song EP with singer Lakis Panagiotopulos on Tee Pee Records in 2011. However, after some brief touring of the US and a full European tour, the Gaze decided to part ways with Lakis, again taking a brief period off to expand their arsenal of riffs. They soon enlisted the help of long time friend, Zaryan Zaidi to join the Gaze as their new front man. With his raspy delivery coupled with aggressively dark tones Zaryan gelled perfectly with the frustrated and heavy sonic assault the band had been building up for release since the break up of Annihilation Time.

October 2012 sees the release of the debut full-length 3 years in the making; which with its maelstromic mixture of heavy rock riffage, punk snarl attitude, and Zep-like attention to detail, “On The Skids” comes across as a hesher’s record collection melted together into one crushing slab of volcanic rock and roll that leaves nothing but burning embers and ringing ears .

Harsh and heavy, LECHEROUS GAZE is now ready to play destructively nasty music for fiendish people !

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Readers Poll Results: The Top 20 of 2012

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Happy New Year to everyone around the world. It’s January 1, 2013, and to celebrate the New Year the best way I know how, I got right to work on tabulating the results of the 2012 Readers Poll. I’ve been tracking the results as they’ve come in over the course of December, and as you can see in the list below, it was a tight race for the top spot right up to the end.

Before we run down the finished list, I want to extend gratitude to each and every one of the 296 people who contributed their top 12 so this list could be put together. It’s an amazing response and I was super stoked that so many of you were able to take part. Thank you for that. Right from the first day the form went up, I knew this was going to be awesome, and it wound up exceeding my every expectation. It was a great sendoff to the year. Much appreciated.

Here are the results of the Top 20 of 2012 Readers Poll:

1. Om, Advaitic Songs – 108 votes

2. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis – 106

3. Graveyard, Lights Out – 86

4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay – 65

5. Ufomammut, Oro – 63

5. Witchcraft, Legend – 63

6. Colour Haze, She Said – 56

6. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65 – 56

7. Kadavar, Kadavar – 49

7. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction – 49

8. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned – 46

9. Baroness, Yellow and Green – 39

10. Conan, Monnos – 38

11. Swans, The Seer – 35

12. Astra, The Black Chord – 31

13. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers – 31

13. The Sword, Apocryphon – 31

14. Royal Thunder, CVI – 26

14. Wo Fat, The Black Code – 26

15. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time – 25

16. Torche, Harmonicraft – 23

17. Corrosion of Conformity, Corrosion of Conformity – 22

18. Enslaved, Riitiir – 19

19. Goat, World Music – 18

19. Melvins Lite, Freak Puke – 18

19. Soundgarden, King Animal – 18

20. Amenra, Mass V – 17

20. Samothrace, Reverence to Stone – 17

16 Votes

Witch Mountain, Cauldron of the Wild
Rush, Clockwork Angels
Stoned Jesus, Seven Thunders Roar
Troubled Horse, Step Inside

15 Votes

Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind – 15
Mighty High, Legalize Tre Bags – 15
My Sleeping Karma, Soma – 15

Pretty wild to have Om and High on Fire so close, and they were tied for a long, long time, but Om retained an early lead and managed to pull it out in the end. As you can see, there were a number of releases that tied with others for their position. Seemed only fair to me to include all of them, and I also threw in those with 16 and 15 votes as well, just because it was close. In total, there were an astounding 1,200+ albums entered into consideration.

Once again, thanks to everyone for making this Readers Poll happen and for taking the time to be a part of it. Already looking forward to some fantastic things to come in 2013, so please stay tuned and keep your lists handy.

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At a Glance: Witchcraft, Legend

Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It makes a weird kind of sense. It’s been five years since Witchcraft released their third album, The Alchemist, and the long-awaited follow-up — dubbed Legend – finds them making their debut on Nuclear Blast and finds guitarist/vocalist Magnus Pelander surrounded by an almost entirely different band. Now a double-guitar five-piece, Witchcraft‘s Legend marks the first appearances of guitarists Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius and drummer Oscar Johansson (aka Pezo of Truckfighters). So with just Pelander and bassist Ola Henriksson returning, why not reinvent Witchcraft‘s sound at the beginning of this new era?

Perhaps that’s not fair. A lot can happen over five years, and I doubt it’s as simple or as calculated as that. Nonetheless, Pelander — who’s always been the central figure songwriting-wise — has overseen a recasting of aesthetic to match the recasting of the lineup, and the tonal fullness and modernity of Legend opener “Deconstruction” has more in common with Scorpions than Pentagram, who were the core influence across 2004’s landmark self-titled debut and 2005’s follow-up, Firewood. Immediately, Witchcraft are different. They’ve shirked off most of the vintage stylization that marked their previous work and boldly opted for something new.

And whether it’s good or bad, that right away makes Legend the most fascinating Witchcraft record since the first one. The last five years and the rise of countrymen act Graveyard (who share a lineage with Pelander going back to the days of the obscure but pioneering outfit Norrsken) have led to an entire crop of bands in and around Sweden caked in a retro style defined in part by Witchcraft, so for the band to come back now and even expand on the more progressive elements of The Alchemist while keeping the same retro mindset — well, it would’ve been expected, if nothing else.

But Legend isn’t what you’d expect if you’ve followed Witchcraft before. Its distortion is modern and heavy, its production is crisp, and one need only to look at tracks like “An Alternative to Freedom,”  “White Light Suicide,” “Democracy” and “Dystopia” to get a sense of an emergent sociopolitical viewpoint in the music. Some of the old Witchcraft methods are there — Pelander‘s vocals on the well-chosen single “It’s Not Because of You” hint at prior glories, and though it starts out with a riff nearer to country rock, “An Alternative to Freedom” settles into a creeping guitar line of a style present throughout the back catalog — but the slide in that song, the clap-ready swagger in “White Light Suicide,” the screaming lead in “Democracy” (not to mention the “fuck your heroes/fuck your icons” lyrics) and the darker heaviness of 12-minute closer “Dead End” are a long, long way from the humble, blown-out proto-metal melodies of old.

Songwriting remains consistent, however. Pelander isn’t quite a master of this form — they’re not Dixie Witch… yet — but he does well nonetheless in crafting memorable tracks, and the performances of Henriksson and the new members of the band prove suited to the surge in centerpiece “Ghosts House” or the moodier vibe of the penultimate “Dystopia.” And it’s actually Pelander‘s lack of mastery here that makes Legend so intriguing, because where it’s pretty easy to argue Witchcraft had their shit down pat as regards retro rocking, this is new ground. It’s interesting to think of Witchcraft as a band 12 years on, purposefully making themselves less comfortable in their process. And admirable.

And who knows, maybe Witchcraft‘s example will once more serve for others to follow. I can’t think of another act who’ve successfully navigated themselves out of a retro style, so perhaps the boldness Witchcraft show on Legend will bleed into others tired of their tube amps and tape machines. It’s entirely possible that Witchcraft‘s fourth will make their most resonant impact yet, and even if it’s probably not what I’ll reach for every time — I don’t think anything could replace the first album in my mind — these are quality songs that mark a new beginning for the band and the more I hear them, the more I see their appeal, both conceptually and in practice. The change is going to be a lot for some to swallow, but for the potential Legend presents, Witchcraft may yet come out on top in deliberately working against what they once were.

Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast USA

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13 Before ’13 — Albums Not to Miss Before the End of 2012

Posted in Where to Start on July 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

We’re more than halfway through 2012, and we’ve already seen great releases from the likes of Orange Goblin, Pallbearer, Conan, C.O.C., Saint Vitus and many others, but there’s still a long way to go. The forecast for the next five months? Busy.

In my eternal and inevitably doomed quest to keep up, I’ve compiled a list of 13 still-to-come releases not to miss before the year ends. Some of this information is confirmed — as confirmed as these things ever are, anyway — either by label or band announcements, and some of it is a little bit vaguer in terms of the actual dates, but all this stuff is slated to be out before 2013 hits. That was basically my only criteria for inclusion.

And of course before I start the list, you should know two things: The ordering is dubious, since it’s not like I can judge the quality of an album before I’ve heard it, just my anticipation, and that this is barely the beginning of everything that will be released before the end of 2012. The tip of the fastly-melting iceberg, as it were. If past is prologue, there’s a ton of shit I don’t even know about that (hopefully) you’ll clue me into in the comments.

Nonetheless, let’s have some fun:

1. Colour Haze, She Said (Sept./Oct.)


I know, I know, this one’s been a really, really long time coming. Like two years. Like so long that Colour Haze had to go back and remake the album because of some terrible technical thing that I don’t even know what happened but it doesn’t matter anymore. Notice came down yesterday from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek that the recording is done and the long-awaited She Said is on the way to be pressed on vinyl and CD. Got my fingers crossed for no more snags.

2. EnslavedRIITIIR (Sept. 28)

The progressive Norwegian black metallers have put out 10 albums before it, and would you believe RIITIIR is the first Enslaved album that’s a palindrome? Kind of cheating to include it on this list, because I’ve heard it, but I’ve been through the record 10-plus times and I still feel like I just barely have a grasp on where they’re headed with it, so I think it’ll be really interesting to see what kind of response it gets upon release. Herbrand Larsen kills it all over these songs though, I will say that.

3. Mos Generator, Nomads (Oct. 23)

Hard for me not to be stoked on the prospect of the first new Mos Generator album since 2007, especially looking at that cover, which Ripple Music unveiled on Tuesday when it announced the Oct. 23 release date. It’s pretty grim looking, and even though Mos once put out a record called The Late Great Planet Earth, I’ve never thought of them as being particularly dark or doomed. I look forward to hearing what Tony Reed (Stone AxeHeavyPink) has up his sleeve for this collection, and if he’s looking to slow down and doom out a bit here, that’s cool too. I’ll take it either way.

4. Ufomammut, Oro – Opus Alter (Sept.)

No, that’s not the cover of Oro – Opus Alter, the second half of Italian space doom grand masters Ufomammut‘s Oro collection — the first being Opus Primum (review here), which served as their Neurot Recordings debut earlier this year. That cover hasn’t been released yet, so I grabbed a promo pic to stand in. I’m really looking forward to this album, though I hope they don’t go the Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Light route and wind up with two records that, while really good, essentially serve the same purpose. I’ve got my hopes high they can outdo themselves once again.

5. WitchcraftLegend (Sept. 21)

I guess after their success with Graveyard, Nuclear Blast decided to binge a bit on ’70s loyalist doom, signing Witchcraft and even more recently, Orchid. Can’t fault them that. It’s been half a decade since Witchcraft released The Alchemist and in their absence, doom has caught on in a big way to their methods. With a new lineup around him, will Magnus Pelander continue his divergence into classic progressive rock, or return to the Pentagram-style roots of Witchcraft‘s earliest work? Should be exciting to find out.

6. Wo FatThe Black Code (Nov.)

After having the chance to hear some rough mixes of Texas fuzzers Wo Fat‘s Small Stone debut, The Black Code, I’m all the more stoked to encounter the finished product, and glad to see the band join the ranks of Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk and Gozu in heralding the next wave of American fuzz. Wo Fat‘s 2011 third outing, Noche del Chupacabra (review here), greatly expanded the jammed feel in their approach, and I get the sense they’re just beginning to find where they want to end up within that balance.

7. Blood of the SunBurning on the Wings of Desire (Late 2012)

As if the glittering logo and booby-lady cover art weren’t enough to grab attention, Blood of the Sun‘s first album for Listenable Records (fourth overall) is sure to garner some extra notice because the band is led by drummer/vocalist Henry Vasquez, better known over the past couple years as the basher for Saint Vitus. Whatever pedigree the band has assumed through that, though, their modern take on classic ’70s heavy has a charm all its own and I can’t wait to hear how Burning on the Wings of Desire pushes that forward. Or backward. Whatever. Rock and roll.

8. SwansThe Seer (Aug. 28)

This one came in the mail last week and I’ve had the chance to make my way through it only once. It’s two discs — and not by a little — and as was the case with Swans‘ 2010 comebacker, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (review here), the far less cumbersomely titled The Seer is loaded with guest contributions. Even Jarboe shows up this time around, doing that breathy panting thing she does. Unnerving and challenging as ever, Swans continue to be a litmus for how far experimentalism can go. 3o years on, that’s pretty impressive in itself.

9. Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird (Sept. 4)

Apparently the Finnish melo-doom collective’s fifth album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, came out earlier this year in Europe, but it’s finally getting an American release in September, and as I’ve always dug the band’s blend of death metal and mournful melodicism, I thought I’d include it here. Like Swans, I’ve heard the Swallow the Sun once through, and it seems to play up more of the quiet, weepy side of their sound, but I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months.

10. My Sleeping Karma, Soma (Oct. 9)

Just signed to Napalm Records and tapped to open for labelmates Monster Magnet as they tour Europe performing Spine of God in its entirety this fall, the German four-piece are set to follow-up 2010’s Tri (review here) with Soma. Details were sketchy, of course, until about five minutes after this post initially went up, then the worldwide release dates, cover art and tracklist were revealed, so I updated. Find all that info on the forum.

11.Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (Aug. 28)

Way back in 2009 when I interviewed Eagle Twin guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley about the band’s Southern Lord debut, he said the band’s next outing would relate to snakes, and if the cover is anything to go by, that seems to have come to fruition on The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, which is set to release at the end of next month. As the first album was kind of a mash of influences turned into cohesive and contemplative heavy drone, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store this time around.

12. Hooded MenaceEffigies of Evil (Sept. 11)

You know how sometimes you listen to a band and that band turns you on in their liner notes to a ton of other cool bands? I had that experience with Finnish extreme doomers Hooded Menace‘s 2010 second album, Never Cross the Dead (review here), except instead of bands it was hotties of ’70s horror cinema. Needless to say, I anxiously await the arrival of their third record and Relapse debut, Effigies of Evil. Someone needs to start a label and call it Hammer Productions just to sign this band.

13. Yawning Man, New Album (Soon)

Make no mistake. The prospect of a new Yawning Man album would arrive much higher on this list if I was more convinced it was going to come together in time for a 2012 release. As it is, Scrit on the forum has had a steady stream of updates since May about the record — the latest news being that it’s going to be a double album — and Scrit‘s in the know, so I’ll take his word. One thing we do know for sure is that the band in the picture above is not the current Yawning Man lineup. Alfredo Hernandez and Mario Lalli out, Greg Saenz and Billy Cordell in. Bummer about the tumult, but as long as it’s Gary Arce‘s ethereal guitar noodling, I’m hooked one way or another.

Since we closed with rampant speculation, let me not forget that somewhere out there is the looming specter of a new Neurosis album, which the sooner it gets here, the better. Perhaps also a new Clutch full-length, though I doubt that’ll materialize before 2013. And that’s a different list entirely.

Thanks for reading. Anything I forgot or anything you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.

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The Debate Rages: Witchcraft vs. Graveyard

Posted in The Debate Rages on May 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a battle for Sverige supremacy! Retro a retro! Winner takes Örebro! Other terrible Swedish puns!

I had this post planned to go up today even before the news came in that Witchcraft had joined the Nuclear Blast roster, where Graveyard already resides, but with the two as labelmates, it’s even better! Both bands’ pasts were already intertwined with Witchcraft guitarist/vocalist Magnus Pelander and Graveyard guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson and bassist Rikard Eklund having been in under-appreciated Swedish proto-doom pioneers Norrsken together, but now their futures are interrelated as well.

So, with a host of links between the two acts, not to mention a stylistic core of ’70s worship running through both, I figured it’s time to find out which band inspires the most allegiance. Witchcraft hasn’t had a record since 2007’s The Alchemist continued the ascent to popularity that 2005’s Firewood and 2004’s self-titled began, but those albums — the first two particularly — helped set the stage for Graveyard to make their own run at heavy rocking glory, taking less direct influence from Pentagram, but still honing an ultra-analog approach on their 2007 self-titled debut and last year’s excellent Hisingen Blues.

Since it will have been five years by the time it gets out (not to mention a completely different band around Pelander) if Witchcraft has a new record in 2012, let’s make it as simple as possible and take the first album from each band. You could say Graveyard‘s songs are more rock and Witchcraft‘s more doom, but do you think the album Graveyard would have met the massive acclaim it did if not for Witchcraft paving the way? Or maybe you just think one is a better band than the other, flat out, not matter how many albums are involved? Let’s find out.

Witchcraft‘s Witchcraft vs. Graveyard‘s Graveyard. Take a second, revisit the bands/records below, and please leave a comment with your pick.

Witchcraft, “No Angel or Demon” from Witchcraft:

Graveyard, “Lost in Confusion” from Graveyard:

This is a tough one, but remember, the entire Swedish nation is depending on you, so, uh, no pressure. I’m pretty sure whoever wins this gets to be mayor of Stockholm for a week — yeah, it’s that big a deal. Hail Sweden.

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