- Chylde of Fire
- If Wishes Were Horses
- Mr Haze
- Wooden Cross (I Can't Wake the Dead)
- Queen of Bees
- Merlin's Daughter
- I See a Man
- Sorrow Evoker
- You Suffer
Release Date: 2005
Label: Rise Above Records
As many times as I have listened to Firewood I am still flipping the booklet around to see the year it was created. I can see with my own two eyes that it says 2005, but I still can’t believe it. The music like this, pure stoner/doom delight, is simply not done these days anymore. This isn’t the 70s, you know, but trends be damned, say the Swedish newcomers Witchcraft. Not quite the rookies, the self-titled debut having already registered them on the European doom-stoner map, Firewood, the band’s second release, brings them stateside in the continuing cooperation of Rise Above Records and Candlelight.
Try Firewood and see for yourself why it causes me major confusion to assign the creation date for this album properly. Opting for a clean, decidedly analog, sound Witchcraft evokes long since deceased shadows of 70s era Black Sabbath, Cathedral and Pentagram. I can’t quite call it a doom cult classic as there is no heavy fuzz stamp on this album so characteristic of the genre. The bass guitar is not as heavy as elephant’s ass, and there are no Candlemass crushers on Firewood. Rather, the album treads the waters of stoner rock, its both dynamic and melancholic sides.
Witchcraft’s riffs are not in your face. Instead, they are unassuming, but fit all fundamental characteristics of the early Iommi and Pentagram. As if recorded in the lush green hills of Northern Europe, outdoors, the music possesses obvious storytelling qualities (If Wishes Were Horses), similar to the glimpses seen on Lake of Tears Headstones. Bright opener Chylde of Fire, rocking in the saddle Attention!, joking jazzy You Suffer or stretchy sad Wooden Cross (I Can’t Wake the Dead) and I See a Man – all tracks on the album are excellent pieces of song writing, something very lost on many of the bands today. One of the best of them, Sorrow Evoker, starts acoustic and sad, with tender flute moments, then grows stronger and forceful, but never loses its tunefulness. Something that had a danger to be corny, drum rimshots and cowbells (Wooden Cross, I See a Man), feel right at home on Firewood strongly adding to arrangements and atmosphere.
Magnus Pelander is a perfect voice for Witchcraft. You would want to sit with this man around a campfire in the dark forest to listen to his singing. Not Ozzy, he still has that needed weepy vibrato in his voice that you expect him to start singing Paranoid in the middle of Queen of Bees. With the overall clear album sound and vocals brought out front you can hear just about every word Magnus sings, catching the lyrical references to “stone cold” and “wishing well”. John Hoyles’ guitar is bluesy and extremely soulful, breaking out with distorted (Attention!), jazzy (I See a Man) or semi-dissonant (Merlin’s Daughter) leads. Drummer Jonas Arnesen does not need to create double bass rough rumbles, sounds nothing like many triggered drummers of today and has a chance to showcase his rolls (Queen of Bees).
Firewood is an age transcending album, needed to be heard by the old folks who didn’t get enough of St. Vitus and Trouble. I also believe it could serve well the younger generation who never even heard about the bands mentioned throughout this review. I once argued at the party about the influence Black Sabbath had on metal with my opponent calling them simply boring. Man, do I wish I could play Firewood for him then?!
Not even a stoner fan, I think Witchcraft represents the hopes of the genre, hailed Americans Abdullah having nothing on this band. Firewoodis bound to appear on my year end lists. - Alex (MetalReviews.com)