[8/10] Probably no better way to get the hipsters out of their weed-infested haze than to hit 'em with a new Witchcraft album. It's only been five years and remarkably, the band's name and "legend" (pun intended) has only appeared to have grown. Their 2007 The Alchemist has enjoyed a lifespan longer than it probably should, bolstered by press quotes from the likes of Phil Anselmo and friends, thus ramping up the anticipation for their fourth album and first for Nuclear Blast, Legend. And so with a new label, lineup, and production direction in tow, the Swedes do not disappoint.
Changes are a plenty in the Witchcraft camp, with the only holdovers from The Alchemist being vocalist/once-guitarist Magnus Pelander and bassist Ola Henrikkson. The pair is joined by the new twin guitar attack of Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius, along with drummer Oscar Johansson. Also of significant importance is producer/engineer Jens Borgen, whose mammoth and crystalline production jobs are usually the opposite of the desired effect for Witchcraft, but it's no wonder that the band has never sounded this good. Perhaps it's in the beefed-up guitar arsenal...or maybe Witchcraft doesn't feel the need to sound like they're trapped in 1984 anymore.
Pelander is still the point of focus and he delivers quite often over the span of nine songs. The saunter of opener "Deconstruction" is marvelous, as is ready-for-radio lead single "Not Because of You." The man is just so easy on the ears; he's got the right amount of pitch and honesty to his vocals, with earthy bravado emanating across the brooding "An Alternative to Freedom" and album standout "White Light Suicide." Pelander makes this thing go, no two ways about it.
If positioned properly, Witchcraft will no longer be captive to the retro rock scene they helped ignite last decade. In the wake of their success, the rash of bands using retro rock as a safe haven (see: Graveyard, Rival Sons, et al) has become practically unable to contain, yet it's highly unlikely any of those bands will advance the way Witchcraft has on Legend.