Friday Full-Length: Witchcraft, The Alchemist

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Witchcraft, The Alchemist (2007)

 

I never liked Witchcraft‘s The Alchemist. Listening to it now, I can’t help but wonder why the hell not? In the narrative I’d constructed in my head, it was too clean, too much trying to be prog, and it had lost the simple charm of their 2004 self-titled debut (discussed here, albeit briefly) and its 2005 follow-up, Firewood — both records to which I feel some pretty significant fan attachment — and I recall being disappointed in the title-track, thinking it was boring and too long and pretentious in its forced-seeming 14-minute sprawl.

But wow, was I wrong.

I’m not sure the Magnus Pelander-led Swedish classic heavy rockers could ever have put out another album I’d reach for as often as the self-titled, but The Alchemist stands some 12 years later as testament to how prescient the band was in their craft, finding a way forward for retro rock that didn’t betray the vintage aesthetic but allowed for growth in songwriting. They didn’t quite “go prog,” but having recently given Black Sabbath‘s Technical Ecstasy (discussed here) a fair shake, The Alchemist doesn’t feel like an entirely dissimilar vision of creative evolution, whether it’s the referential nods in “Hey Doctor” — which seems not only to allude to Sabbath in its drum fills in the speedier second half, which is a compliment to the work of Fredrik Jansson, but indeed to Witchcraft‘s own prior work as well in its earlier riff — or the saxophone worked into the penultimate “Remembered.” Even the acoustic guitar John Hoyles (later of Spiders and now in Big Kizz as well) brings to “The Alchemist” itself and the flourish of organ from Tom Hakava deep in the mix alongside the bass of Ola Henriksson (now in Troubled Horse) make that song a richer experience in concept and execution alike. I won’t say it’s void of self-indulgence, but neither is it defined by that on an expressive level across its three-part spread. That middle section is gorgeous. I feel like I’ve been missing on enjoying it for over a decade.

Opener “Walk Between the Lines” launches the album with a strong sense of movement, something to sweep the listener into the proceedings with a clarity of strum front and witchcraft the alchemistcenter that even Firewood couldn’t claim in terms of production value, sharper as that record was than the debut. Layers of acoustic and electric intertwine in the solo section, perhaps prefacing the title-track on the album’s other end or at very least sounding cool, and rather than make their way back to the stomp of the song’s early going, they bend strings to twist their way to the song’s finish and instead pick up the thread with “If Crimson was Your Colour,” which was released as a standalone 7″ by Rise Above before The Alchemist came out, and remains one of the catchiest tracks they’ve ever written. “Leva” delves into Swedish-language lyrics for not the first time — recall “Schyssta Lögner” from the first album — and does so atop a creeping blues riff that’s a hook unto itself, while also subtly shifting the mood from the all-go momentum of the opening duo to the more rolling vibe that will continue to proliferate through “Hey Doctor” and “Samaritan Burden,” which brings a turn to gorgeous and folkish tonal wash that fades gently as it moves toward its conclusion and only leaves one wanting more.

That proves to be the perfect setup for “Remembered” to revive the thrust of the initial salvo, which it does while also leaving room for the aforementioned sax — courtesy of Anders Andersson — as well as some mellotron from Hakava, thereby working as well as a transition into “The Alchemist” via the added arrangement elements, broadening listener expectation again in subtle ways. And when they get there, the title-track is consuming in narrative and its patient delivery, with its long, open-feeling midsection, later return, and post-silence epilogue as it makes its way to its 14-minute finish. It wasn’t the first time Witchcraft surpassed the 10-minute mark — that would be Firewood closer “Attention!” — and they’ve done it a few times since, but “The Alchemist” is nonetheless a standout moment amid their work before or after, a complete idea realized at a new level of complexity and presentation.

So what was it that didn’t let me see that at the time? I’ve always been a first-two-records-only Witchcraft fan, and I guess when The Alchemist came out, I was too busy resenting the indie cred they’d amassed to appreciate the sonic progress they were making. It has been my loss, but I’m glad to have taken the opportunity to correct my error. It won’t make up for the 12 years over which I might’ve dug putting it on from time to time, but at least I know going forward that it’s a more than suitable follow-up to the brilliance of those other offerings I’ve so enjoyed for the last decade and a half. Never stop learning.

The Alchemist was Witchcraft‘s last outing through Rise Above and the last to feature Hoyles on guitar. Henriksson would hold out on bass through 2012’s Nuclear Blast debut, Legend (review here), which greatly modernized their sound, and then indeed split with the band as well, leaving Pelander as the remaining founder. In 2016, they issued Nucleus (review here), which built on the steps that Legend had taken, and later that same year, Pelander under his own name released Time (review here), a solo full-length following a 2010 EP that seemed to preface more to come. Not to say it couldn’t happen, but Witchcraft have steadily been performing shows and at festivals — they flew to New York last Fall to play Le Poisson Rouge — and may or may not have new material in the works, which is to say I have no idea what’s going on with them.

Either way, The Alchemist isn’t the departure I’d so long thought it was, turning its back on the rawness of its forebears in Witchcraft‘s discography. It’s an outgrowth of those crucial first accomplishments, and an essential third in what’s been a trilogy all along. It’s not dropping off, it’s soaring.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

By Wednesday morning I was pretty ready to die. The Pecan was out of his mind. He’d had a cold earlier in the week and was getting over it but clearly not back up to 100 percent yet. And ugh. Hitting and biting and mad and not eating and just going from one thing to the next that he knows he’s not supposed to be doing. My laptop, the kitchen cabinets, slamming the fridge door, pulling on the oven — for which we’ve had to get a lock — just one to the next to the next without stopping. It gets so overwhelming. Pulling his mother’s laptop charger out of the wall. Trying to climb up behind the tv. Grabbing burning hot coffee. Climbing on me while I’m on the can. Dude, just bash my brains in and be done with it. Please. Please. I give. Mercy. Just kill me.

It was so bad that it was my 15th wedding anniversary and I told The Patient Mrs. that I found running a stoner rock blog more satisfying than parenting.

I said that shit.

Out loud.

And meant it.

And worse: I feel like I made a convincing case.

It took basically spending two hours at the park with the sandbox to set him right. Yesterday was better to some degree. It would almost have to be. Today he has baby-gymnastics, so I’m hoping that can take it out of him a little bit, let him work off some of whatever residual fuckall remains. We shall see. My severed head, on a pike made by Melissa & Doug.

He’s not yet two.

We were going to start potty training this weekend. No fucking way. I can’t even get the kid to sit down to put shoes on.

So that’s life. Real life.

No new episode of The Obelisk Show today on Gimme Radio. They had some production stuff going on this week and were overwhelmed and asked if I minded if we skipped the episode. Being overwhelmed myself, I said fine. Next week is the Quarterly Review anyhow, so yeah, plenty going on. I’m also flying to Norway for Høstsabbat. And I need to get those Acrimony liner notes finally done this weekend. So yes, I didn’t need to be cutting Gimme voice breaks yesterday afternoon, fun as that is to do.

I needed to sleep.

Which is probably what I should’ve done this morning when the alarm went off as well. Took me about three minutes to get up and flick the on switch for the coffee pot, giving myself a little pep talk in the meantime. “Come on Cocksan, it’s just one post. Get off your ass and make that coffee and write it.” And here we are.

No rest this weekend, no rest next week with the Quarterly Review and the fest after that. I’m also going (I hope) to Acid King on Monday in Brooklyn, so I’ll have a live review of that. And yeah. I don’t know. The whole thing just feels overwhelming and supremely dumb to me at this point, but I keep going. And I guess by the whole thing I mean life. But hey, the new Iguana record is good.

Kaboom.

Thanks for reading. Great and safe weekend. Forum, radio, merch.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 07

Posted in Radio on January 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

I wanted to get a little weird. You know, the last episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio was some of the best tracks from 2018, but in addition to some new stuff, some 2019 stuff — cuts from Skraeckoedlan and Thunderbird Divine — I wanted to make sure I included some songs that people might’ve missed in 2018. In fact, with Melody Fields early on in the playlist, that was a record I missed completely until I put up one or the other of the year-end lists and someone pointed it out to me on Thee Facebooks. It’s an awesome record. On the show, I mistakenly said it was released through World in Sound. The LP was on Kommun 2 and the CD was on Sound Effect. Credit where it’s due, because that record rules.

Likewise, “it rules” was also a running theme. Black Helium was a standout from that 100-album Quarterly Review that I did in December, and being able to stand out among 99 other releases certainly seems worth highlighting to me. I was digging the Horehound record as I was getting ready to review it, and Skraeckoedlan I’m also getting ready to cover (maybe later this week?), while Faith in Jane I haven’t had the chance to review yet but those guys are great. Also from the Quarterly Review was Child, Space Coke and Carpet, while Goblinsmoker belong to the UK’s ever-growing swath of bands with silly names and a destructive bent. And then at the end I wanted to space out like I used to do with the podcasts — just have it hit a point and go far out and not come back. Jam into the reaches. Plus it gave me an excuse to talk about Øresund Space Collective’s AR/VR artwork for Kybalion, which it awesome in its own right.

The odd-track-out I suppose is Witchcraft, but I talk about that on the show. It’s kind of a new-classic in my mind and something I wanted to focus on this episode. We’re moving into a new year and Witchcraft’s self-titled came out 15 years ago. I think the only reason it’s not already considered classic heavy is because it’s still so relevant, it hasn’t even allowed for that kind of distance yet. But make no mistake, that’s a classic album.

Anyway, considering I had to record the voice breaks on my phone because my internet was so craptastic at the time that I couldn’t go directly into Gimme’s back end software like I’m supposed to, I thought the show came out pretty well. If you listened, I hope you agree. And if you missed it, I hope you can catch the replay.

Here’s the playlist:

The Obelisk Show Ep. 07 – 01.06.19

Greenbeard Kill to Love Yourself Onward, Pillager
Skraeckoedlan Kung Mammut Eorþe
BREAK
Melody Fields Trädgränsen Melody Fields
Faith in Jane Mountain Lore Countryside
Horehound Sloth Holocene
Foot Sweet Stuff Buffalo
Child The Other Song I
BREAK
Witchcraft No Angel or Demon Witchcraft
Black Helium Summer Spells Primitive Fuck
Space Coke Kali Ma L’Appel du Vide
Rifflord The Other Side 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation
Goblinsmoker Toad King Toad King
Thunderbird Divine Qualified Magnasonic
BREAK
Øresund Space Collective Smooth Future Kybalion
Carpet Selene About Rooms and Elephants
Deep Space Destructors Floating Visions from the Void

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is Jan. 20. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

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Up in Smoke 2018 Completes Lineup; Witchcraft, Glanville, The Well, Farflung & The New Death Cult Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

up in smoke 2018 final banner

That’s a wrap on the lineup for Up in Smoke 2018, and it’s a doozy. Up and coming acts like MessaHumulus and Glanville meet with established purveyors in Acid KingThe WellElder and Sasquatch, newbie psych lords Naxatras, scumriffers Dopethrone and a slew of others across a stylistic swath that should be well enough to hold even the most fickle of feet in place over the two-day stretch in Switzerland. Plus Ancestors are gonna be there. And Farflung. Looks like a solid way to spend a weekend and then some.

Sound of Liberation, which puts on this fest and numerous others, has a last batch of bands added in one more round, and it’s Witchcraft near the top of the bill as well as the aforementioned GlanvilleFarflungThe Well and The New Death Cult, the latter of whom I know absolutely nothing but who seem to be on the right page mission-wise.

Announcement came down the PR wire:

up in smoke 2018 final poster

UP IN SMOKE 2018 – WITCHCRAFT & 4 MORE BANDS COMPLETE THE LINE-UP!

Yes, it’s true, you read it right, and we are very excited to share this great news with you all today!

UP IN SMOKE, Switzerland’s annual and finest Stoner, Fuzz, Doom and Heavy Psychedelic Rock Festival, has announced the final bands for 2018! The following highclass acts have just been added to close this year’s festival edition:

Sweden’s Heavy Rock legends WITCHCRAFT will perform an exclusive show at UP in SMOKE at Z7 in Pratteln! The band has barely played any live shows in the last years, so it’s more than a great honor to have them at this year’s UP IN SMOKE Festival VOL VI next month!

Some more sweet acts are added to the bill as well:

The outstanding spacerock cult band FARFLUNG, Texas finest heavy psych blues combo THE WELL and heavy hard rockers GLANVILLE will join Switzerland’s most heavy rocking party of the year. Last but not least UP IN SMOKE has added another surprise act! THE NEW DEATH CULT is here to crush hate, injustice, environmental destruction and greed with universal peace & love. Join the cult at UP IN SMOKE!

The line-up is now complete and features 20 amazing bands! Day Split will be unveiled within 10 days, but you should grab your 2-day pass while you still can! Taking place at the famous Z7 in Pratteln, Switzerland, between October 5 – 6th 2018, tickets are available HERE!

Join the cult at UP IN SMOKE FESTIVAL VOL VI.

The line-up is now complete and features 20 amazing bands! Day Split will be unveiled within 10 days, but you should GRAB YOUR 2-DAY PASS while you still can!

www.upinsmoke.de
https://www.facebook.com/UpInSmokeIndoorFestivalInZ7/
https://www.sol-tickets.com/produkte
https://soundofliberation.com

Witchcraft, “The Outcast”

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Psycho Las Vegas 2018 Reveals Lineup; Dimmu Borgir, Hellacopters, Godflesh, Witchcraft and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 logo

It’s only taken a few years for Psycho Las Vegas to establish itself as the premier underground festival in the US. All well and good. With 2018’s lineup, though, it’s time to start thinking of Psycho among the best in the world.

Sounds like too much? Consider Godflesh and Dimmu Borgir sharing a stage, both for exclusive West Coast appearances. Think of Sweden’s Witchcraft playing one of the two shows they’ll do in the US at Psycho, and ditto that for Japanese riff-madmen Church of Misery. Think of US exclusives from Lee Dorrian’s With the Dead, or Lucifer, whose Johanna Sadonis will also DJ the Center Bar. The commitment to up and coming underground acts local, domestic and foreign like Temple of Void, King Buffalo, Dreadnought, The Munsens and DVNE. Picture yourself watching Wolves in the Throne Room headline a pre-fest pool party with Elder, Young and in the Way, Dengue Fever, Fireball Ministry and Toke.

2018 is the year Psycho Las Vegas outclasses even itself and pushes further than it ever has in terms of stylistic reach (Integrity walks by and waves… at Boris) and the sheer power of its construction. If you’re looking for the future, you’ll find it in scumbag paradise.

Here’s the lineup:

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 poster

Psycho Las Vegas 2018

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas
4455 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, Nevada 89169

Tickets: https://www.vivapsycho.com/pages/tickets

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2018 lineup:
DIMMU BORGIR (west of chicago exclusive)
HELLACOPTERS (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
SUNN 0)))
GODFLESH (west of chicago exclusive)
WITCHCRAFT (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
ENSLAVED
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE
HIGH ON FIRE
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT
RED FANG
ZAKK SABBATH
CHURCH OF MISERY (usa exclusive 2018 with exception to one other show in San Diego)
TINARIWEN
GOBLIN
CKY
VENOM INC
EYEHATEGOD
VOIVOD
BORIS
COVEN
INTEGRITY
PALLBEARER
WITH THE DEAD (USA exclusive 2018)
MONOLORD
LUCIFER (USA exclusive 2018)
ACID WITCH
SURVIVE
DOPETHRONE
BIG BUSINESS
UNEARTHLY TRANCE
MUTOID MAN
TODAY IS THE DAY
HELMS ALEE
SPIRIT ADRIFT
BATUSHKA
PRIMITIVE MAN
DVNE
ALL PIGS MUST DIE
EIGHT BELLS
WORMWITCH
INDIAN
NECROT
HOMEWRECKER
BRAIN TENTACLES
CLOAK
BLACK MARE
MAGIC SWORD
UADA
TEMPLE OF VOID
DREADNOUGHT
WOLVHAMMER
ASEETHE
DISASTROID
FORMING THE VOID
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS
GHASTLY SOUND
HOWLING GIANT
KING BUFFALO
NIGHT HORSE
THE MUNSENS
GLAARE

Paradise Pool Pre Party
August 16th

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
ELDER
YOUNG AND IN THE WAY
DENGUE FEVER
FIREBALL MINISTRY
TOKE

Center Bar DJ’s
Andrew W.K.
Nicke Andersson (Entombed/Hellacopters)
Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer)

https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas/
https://www.facebook.com/events/125340824913552/
http://vivapsycho.com

High on Fire, Live at Psycho Las Vegas 2016

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Psycho Las Vegas 2018 Announces High on Fire, Witchcraft, Goblin and More for Lineup; Tickets on Sale Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it, before the great American disruptor returned? As Europe’s Spring 2018 festival season continues to take shape — I’ve hardly seen a word about summer outside of a certain hellacious France-based fest held annually each June — Psycho Las Vegas 2018, set once again for the dead heat of August in Nevada’s basically-uninhabitable-were-it-not-for-air-conditioning desert stronghold of decadence, is lashing out early with its first lineup announcements and putting its tickets on sale. Waste not want not in all things, including time.

If they’re early with the first Psycho Las Vegas 2018 announcements, they’re certainly already working at the scale one expects from what’s become the US’ premium heavy festival. High on Fire, Goblin, Witchcraft, a notable underground first-timer import in DVNE, as well as the extremity of Indian, the profile of Zakk Sabbath and the spacious S U R V I V E, otherwise known as the duo behind the soundtrack to Stranger Things. I still haven’t managed to watch the second season. Any good?

Either way, this is just the start for Psycho, as we all know, but it’s a hell of a start, and on looks forward to what they build up as we get closer to next summer. They haven’t failed yet to outdo themselves in scope or scale, and they continue to give the rest of Planet Earth a run for its money in that.

The PR wire brought official word:

psycho las vegas 2018

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2018: Announcing Witchcraft, Goblin, High on Fire + MORE, Tix on Sale

TICKETS ON SALE
FRIDAY 12/15 @ 10AM PST HERE

AUGUST 17-19, 2018
@ HARD ROCK HOTEL AND CASINO, LAS VEGAS

The award winning Psycho Las Vegas has announced its return, along with its first round of bands it plans to host next August 17-19 at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Expectations are high for the fest after last year’s massive, expertly curated selection of artists from around the globe, and if
this first taste of the lineup is any indication, 2018 promises to go above and beyond, setting the desert on fire.

The list of bands they have unleashed to reign havoc as of now are:

The return and reunion of Swedish psychedelic fuzz legends Witchcraft will be playing their first US show since 2009. In line with their reputation for scoring highly coveted sets, Psycho Las Vegas will be only one of two US dates that the band will be performing in 2018. Joining the ranks are Italian purveyors of prog rock, Goblin, most notable for their original scores for Dawn of the Dead & Disturbia; beloved stoned thrashers High On Fire; guitar lord Zakk Sabbath; horror-synth group S U R V I V E, best known for scoring Stranger Things; the reunion of Chicago doom heavyweights Indian; and UK’s prog masters DVNE, who will be performing their first ever US show at this year’s fest.

The first 2500 tickets sold will also include access to the Psycho Las Vegas Pre-fest Pool Party on August 16, which is not only the most notorious pre-party in town, but also includes favorite Psycho alumni.

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2018
AUGUST 17-19

WITCHCRAFT
GOBLIN
HIGH ON FIRE
ZAKK SABBATH
S U R V I V E
INDIAN
DVNE
And many, many more to be unleashed…

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/psycho-las-vegas-2018-tickets-41041983678
http://www.vivapsycho.com
https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas
https://www.instagram.com/psycholasvegas

DVNE, Asheran (2017)

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The Top 20 of 2016 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top 20 year end poll results

The poll is closed, the results are counted and the top 20 albums of 2016 have been chosen. Hard to argue with the list as it’s shown up over the course of the past month, so I won’t try. Instead, let me just say thanks to incredible amount of participants who contributed this year.

All told, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, 612 people added their picks to the proceedings, compared to 388 in last year’s poll. Considering how much that number blew my mind on Jan. 1, 2016, I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about adding another 200-plus lists to the pot. In short, I’m astounded, deeply humbled and so, so, so grateful. I feel like we got enough of a sampling this year to give a genuinely representative showing for where people’s heads have been at, so thank you if you were a part of it.

Thank you as well as always to Slevin for running the poll’s back end and tabulating the results. As ever, the weighting system is one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. You’ll find that list (plus some honorable mentions) below, followed by the raw-vote tally.

And after the jump, as has become the tradition, are the full lists of everyone who submitted, alphabetized by name. I’m in there too. It’s a huge amount to wade through, and even if you thought you heard everything in 2016, it should be more than enough to keep you busy for the next year.

One last note: I’m no statistician. Please allow for these numbers to change over the next couple days on some small level.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2016 — Weighted Results

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (375 points)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (368)
3. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (324)
4. Asteroid, III (302)
5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (295)
6. Gozu, Revival (274)
7. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (253)
8. King Buffalo, Orion (244)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (238)
10. Conan, Revengeance (232)
11. Cough, Still They Pray (228)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (218)
13. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (213)
14. Truckfighters, V (206)
15. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (200)
16. Khemmis, Hunted (192)
16. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (192)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (181)
18. Witchcraft, Nucleus (174)
19. Opeth, Sorceress (173)
20. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (159)

Honorable mention to:
Causa Sui, Return to Sky (157)
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (157)
Black Mountain, IV (148)
Mos Generator, Abyssinia (144)
Wretch, Wretch (140)

Look at those tallies for number one and two. That race was close all month. Wo Fat kept out front for the most part, but Greenleaf kept it interesting and Elephant Tree’s debut snuck in there at third, which I love to see, both because it’s their first album and because that record was indeed so great. King Buffalo, another debut, also made the top 10, underscoring those two as bands to watch, and though Brant Bjork, Conan, Asteroid, Neurosis, Gozu and Mars Red Sky might be more expected names, they still certainly delivered excellent records, so again, nothing to fight with here. Things flesh out a bit in the 10-20 range, but I don’t think there’s one album on this list you could call is “miss.”

Top 20 of 2016 — Raw Votes

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (109)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (92)
3. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (87)
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (82)
5. Asteroid, III (80)
6. Gozu, Revival (76)
7. Conan, Revengeance (73)
8. Cough, Still They Pray (70)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (68)
10. King Buffalo, Orion (67)
11. Truckfighters, V (62)
12. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (61)
13. Khemmis, Hunted (60)
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (59)
14. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (59)
15. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (58)
16. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (53)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (49)
17. Witchcraft, Nucleus (49)
18. Opeth, Sorceress (47)
19. Mos Generator, Abyssinia (45)
20. Black Mountain, IV (44)
20. Causa Sui, Return to Sky (44)
20. Wretch, Wretch (44)

Honorable mention to:
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (43)
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light (43)
Geezer, Geezer (41)
Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies (41)
Gojira, Magma (37)
Slomatics, Future Echo Returns (36)
Graves at Sea, The Curse that Is… (35)
Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy (33)
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae (32)
Vokonis, Olde One Ascending (31)

Left a few more honorable mentions in the raw-vote count, just for fun and so you could get more of a feel beyond the top 20 itself, which you’ll notice has a couple ties in it as the raw votes usually do and reorganizes a bit from the weighted results. One and two remain the same, however, and in the same order, and you’ll see Wo Fat was the only album that scored more than 100 votes on its own. As a whole, there were over 2,400 separate entries for albums this year, which is by far the most spread out that the voting has ever been. Frankly, with so many people involved and such a variety of stuff being voted on, I’m amazed anyone managed to agree on anything at all, but of course they did and once again a stellar list is the result.

Well, Happy New Year.

Before I go, thanks again to Slevin for the work put into running the back end of this site and this poll particularly. I show up with the finish lists, but it’s his code that makes it happen, and his efforts are appreciated more than I can say. Dude has never asked me for anything in the nearly eight years I’ve been a constant pain in his ass.

After the jump, you’ll find everybody’s list, alphabetized by name. Please enjoy browsing. I hope you find something awesome, because there’s certainly plenty in there that qualifies, and if you see something that looks like it appears often enough that it should be included in one or both of the counts above, let me know in the comments.

Thanks.

Read more »

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Pelander, Time: Colour and Irony

Posted in Reviews on October 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

pelander-time

It’s fitting somehow that Time should ask more questions than it answers. Six years ago, Witchcraft frontman and retro heavy rock innovator Magnus Pelander (also previously of Örebro forebears Norrsken) issued his four-song solo outing, titled simply EP, on Svart Records. It was an intricate, intimate and progressive offering, if short, and the context in which it arrived was wholly different from that which sees Time arrive via Nuclear Blast.

In 2010, it had already been three years since Witchcraft‘s third album, The Alchemist added elements of classic prog to the vintage stylization of 2005’s sophomore effort, Firewood, which had already cleaned up the band’s presentation from the live-feeling rawness of their 2004 self-titled debut (discussed here); still a landmark in helping define the tenets its subgenre continues to follow.

In 2016, in addition to Pelander taking his last name for a solo moniker as he puts forth the six-song/37-minute Time, Witchcraft released their fifth LP, the sprawling, fully-modernized, 69-minute Nucleus (review here), building on the massive shift in lineup and crisper production style that their 2012 return and Nuclear Blast debut, Legend (review here), began.

All the more curious, then, that Time should arrive with such stripped-down, minimal arrangements — a sweet combination of guitars, strings and voices on “The Irony of Man,” or the UK-style folk flute on opener “Umbrella,” or Pelander and his accompanying guest vocalist backed by acoustic guitar, bass and simple, intermittent percussion on the closing title-track — bearing his name as its banner, since it’s so far removed from the direction his songwriting has taken over the course of the last half-decade. Maybe that’s the point.

One way or another, Time presents the most willfully organic production in which Pelander has taken part at least since Firewood if not since Witchcraft‘s self-titled. I’m reasonably sure that isn’t how he’d want it measured, but it’s true nonetheless. Beginning with the warm welcome of “Umbrella”‘s folksy balladry and classic lyrical patterning — “Never thought I,” and so on — the album holds to a clean but natural sound that, at least in some degree, still translates to a full-band fullness. That is, though parts are quiet, minimalist, rarely is Pelander actually sounding alone on this solo album.

There’s flourish of violin and the aforementioned flute and backing vocals to go with the guitar, bass and percussion working under his lead on “Umbrella,” and a quick ’60s-style psychedelic electric guitar solo even shows up briefly before the acoustic guitar takes the fore once again in a final movement that seems to be referencing Black Sabbath‘s “Sweet Leaf.” Bottom line is it’s not like all Time is working from is Magnus Pelander and an acoustic guitar, but it has an intimate vibe in part due to personal-feeling lyrics like “Family Song,” which directly names mother, father, brother, sister and self as characters early on to a humble strum and some sweet fret work setting up a powerful vocal push as the track moves into its second half.

Some kind of keys — might just be piano — are introduced briefly but not out of place in their coming and going before the last verse section, and “Family Song” ends with a quieter feel, suitable for the transition into the soft open of “The Irony of Man.” The aforementioned backing vocals — I don’t know accompanies Pelander throughout, but her harmonies add enough to the tracks on which she appears that I’d give credit if I could — and another showcase of melodic prowess, this time over a more melancholic instrumental arrangement, driven once more by acoustic guitar but building outward with strings as it moves through toward the two longest cuts on Time, “True Colour” and “Precious Swan.”

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Between them, “True Colour” (8:57) and “Precious Swan” (9:53) comprise more than half of the total 36:50 runtime of Time, and with Pelander having proved his mettle in structure and creating a full-album flow across five Witchcraft full-lengths, it’s hard to imagine their placement next to each other is an accident.

Back to back, they make for the most immersive section of the record — admittedly less if you get the version with the bonus track “Rebecka” — broadening the context with Spanish-style guitar and more active percussion before the halfway point of “True Colour” only to dip back into the quiet verse like nothing ever happened before stretching out with broader strumming, progressive string turns in the back end and a subtle, wistful finish with a ticking clock at close. The play in “Precious Swan” is “precious one.” The song starts with that line and individually plucked notes to set up a patient development that, once it starts unfolding with the drawn violin and more forceful vocals, does not seem to stop.

Tension rises with electric guitar leading to start-stop bass and far-back swirl of guitar that fades out to let piano and acoustics take hold at the halfway mark, building in volume and arrangement to a noisy cacophony that, at 6:29, finally cuts to let a strummed electric guitar play the central line of the song. Then, only then, does the acoustic figure return, Pelander once again crooning “precious one” or “precious swan,” whichever it might be. Strings come back in the instrumental meandering that follows, and there’s a sample of a woman singing in what seems to be Swedish — unsure who or when, but regardless the sense of nostalgia is palpable.

That emotional resonance would seem to stand in direct contrast to the actual last lines of the album, in which Pelander, with an audible sigh, declares, “I don’t want to live here/My enemy is time.” This comes after clever plays off words that rhyme with the title, delivered in succession, a flash of percussion, and a final guest vocal appearance that seems to tie everything together as it gives way to the final movement of subdued acoustic guitar that closes the song and the record as whole.

In its last moments, Time brings listeners back to that sense of asking questions. We don’t, in the end, know whether time is an enemy or an ally, as “Precious Swan” might lead one to believe. We don’t know whether it’s a sense of looking back on his career that caused Pelander to revive this solo-project, or if the very sound of Time itself is an acknowledgement of the role that notions of the bygone have played out in his work aesthetically over the course of his career.

And we don’t know how, or if at all, Magnus Pelander will continue to develop Pelander as an entity separate from Witchcraft, or if Time is a one-off as collections of its ilk sometimes can be; a collection of tracks accumulated over some measure of time — there’s that word again — that he felt it was finally time to get out of his system. All of these things, and more, have yet to be answered, but there’s value in the asking, and for as much as it revels in the uncertain, Pelander‘s Time is guided by the surest of hands.

Pelander, “The Irony of Man”

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Pelander at Nuclear Blast

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Pelander: Witchcraft Frontman Unveils Time Title and Tracklisting

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

More details have started to trickle out about Witchcraft frontman Magnus Pelander‘s debut solo album. The title, for example, will be Time, and it will feature six tracks plus a bonus cut and run about an LP-ready 44 minutes. No artwork or audio or even a solid release date yet, but Nuclear Blast seems to be doling out details one or two at a time — the last press release was “Hey, an album exists and we’re putting it out” and this one is “Hey, it has a name and songs” — so you know, there’s still plenty to learn in the months ahead. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a release date sometime in October/November, but don’t go quoting that or anything. Pure speculation on my part.

And not to give away state secrets or anything, but if you’ve been missing Witchcraft‘s pioneering retro-doom aesthetic, there are definitely some parts of this record to which you’re going to want to pay particular attention. There. I can be vague with the best of ’em.

This is the part where there’s a photo and then the text changes color to signify its origins on the PR wire:

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PELANDER – WITCHCRAFT main man’s solo project announces title & track list

WITCHCRAFT main man, Magnus Pelander’s solo project PELANDER has announced the title as well as the track list for his upcoming debut album.

Time will contain 7 tracks with an approximate running time of 44 minutes.

Time track list:
1. Umbrella
2. Family Song
3. The Irony Of Man
4. True Colour
5. Precious Swan
6. Time
7. Rebecka (BONUS TRACK)

After his latest journey with WITCHCRAFT, Nucleus, multi instrumentalist and lyricist extraordinaire, Magnus Pelander, returns to his solo career which without a doubt can be recognized as being tied to the cult doom/rock band, still exploring other paths and going full on acoustic.

Magnus Pelander comments: “At last my first solo album is done and soon to be released. I cannot believe this is true.”

Commented Nuclear Blast A&R representative Markus Jakob: “We’re thrilled to not only work with a gifted artist as Magnus on his main band but now also on his solo career. Both WITCHCRAFT and PELANDER have always stood for variety, artistic freedom and development which we’re more than happy to support. Prepare yourself for another deep and intense look into the mind and musical vision of a genius!”

www.nuclearblast.de/pelander
https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa/

Magnus Pelander, “Stardust” Live in Gothenburg, Sweden, 2010

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