There’s something awfully sophisticated in the reserve that Witchcraft manage to maintain over the course of a song. The simplicity helps, but there’s something so gripping about the poise Magnus Pellander and crew exude on The Alchemist, where other bands would get completely overwhelmed by the insanely cool shit they’re doing. I wouldn’t be able to take it.
It’s not a massive change from 2005’s Firewood or their self-titled full-length debut. Alchemist continues this almost regal composure, keeping in total control. Only on the title track, “The Alchemist, Pt. 1/2/3,” does the band toy with an epic, extended work, something that must tempt the four-piece daily. It’s a logical step for them, a 15-minute extended work, essentially two related songs filled in by a “Part 2” interlude, that fulfills the Jethro Tull-esque expectations.
But that’s not the aspiration, particularly. They’re still clearly worshipping at the altar of Pentagram, who were clearly worshipping at the altar of Black Sabbath, so there’s a definite nod to the b-side of Black Sabbath. The medieval aspect certainly gives Witchcraft their own flavor, but this is no airy flute-metal. This is a sort of folk-doom, the same thing they’ve been doing, just longer.
And speaking of, the majority of Alchemist is the tight songwriting that aches with Pellander’s plaintive tenor fans have come to expect. It seems at first glance a bit more upbeat than its predecessor, but the fairytale sorrow couldn’t be more real here. It’s still effective music that reaches deep, a rare feat for any band.