"The Alchemist"

(Rise Above)

01. Walk Between the Lines
02. If Crimson Was Your Color
03. Leva
04. Hey Doctor
05. Samaritan Burden
06. Remembered
07. The Alchemist Pt. 1/2/3

RATING: 8.5/10

I find it ironic that for a band so glued to that warm/organic '70s sound that recalls British, blues-based acts as like early BLACK SABBATH and CREAM, as well as the almighty PENTRAGRAM, that WITCHCRAFT can sound so vibrant and relevant in 2007. In other words, this is not some retro-because-it's-hip garage band wannabe outfit, and that is because WITCHCRAFT is a group that pays homage to its influences without sounding contrived and, more importantly, continues evolving as first rate songwriters. It is also the reason for a further improvement in the band's approach from the critically acclaimed "Firewood". These are songs crafted with depth, feeling, and hooks.

It seems redundant to discuss the wonderful analog mix on "The Alchemist", the vintage guitar and organ sounds, or Magnus Pelander's Leibling-esque (as in Bobby) voice, as a skimming of my review of "Firebox" on this site will paint the picture. Let's just say that the sounds heard on that album sound even better on "The Alchemist". In fact, it could be argued that the arrangements breathe more on this one and the instrument separation is impeccable.

As alluded to above, what it comes down to on "The Alchemist" is the songwriting, beginning with a damn catchy, album-opening gem called "Walk Between the Lines". It, like several others on here, features a certain sprightly cadence — a pep in the step, if you will — that soon becomes addictive. It is in many ways the definitive track on the album, at least as far as the marrying of vintage sounds and stellar melody is concerned. Then again, one could also point to the multi-part, epic title track and its seamless movement from rock bluster to psychedelic float to trippy ethereality as the high point.

The attention to detail on every track is what makes the album tick too. Whether the organ snippets on the lively "If Crimson was your Colour", the bluesy Clapton-esque guitar solo and out-of-nowhere saxophone on "Remembered", or the excellent SABBATH breakdown riff/groove on "Hey Doctor", the disc gives the listener a full course meal that makes one beg for seconds. What other band out there today can you honestly say sounds just like WITCHCRAFT?


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