Wytch Hazel – IV: Sacrament (Bad Omen Records/Metal Blade)Monday, 12th June 2023
The proto-metal, classic spirit reigns over this UK unit Wytch Hazel striding valiantly into their fourth full-length with IV: Sacrament. Active since the early 2010’s, as a four-piece you feel the sense of underlying comfort as the 70’s-esque tones, melodies, hooks, and harmonies penetrate the aural landscape while these ten songs take shape. Multiple aspects of their sound can captivate through successive listens – the foundation sturdy as the subsequent subtle adornments enhance the addictive qualities necessary to push the record into the memorable category.
Two areas that immediately stand out in upper echelon performances include the natural vocal harmonies that bleed into the dual guitar action taking place track to track. You feel the warmth/depth of sincere emotion especially in the lower/middle registers from guitarist/vocalist Colin Hendra on delightful songs such as “A Thousand Years” and the Angel Witch meets Thin Lizzy-oriented “Angel of Light”, the guitar passages of Colin with fellow second axe man Alex Haslam providing that additional melodic richness that’s hard to resist. Producer Ed Turner adds his mellotron and mandolin skills as extra earworm flavoring. His acute sensibilities channel the best aspects of Roy Thomas Baker plus Martin Birch when capturing the tones and engaging musical chemistry to position Wytch Hazel in premiere form, using vintage gear to amplify that analog, organic nature to their style. The uplifting acoustic/electric riffs against a slower, steady tempo template makes “Endless Battle” another standout, the simplified, twin harmony lead break pure gold in its payoff as it takes early Judas Priest into the current century. Twisted psychedelic effects give chase to more mystical charm in the longest cut “Digging Deeper”, the acoustic guitars and piano passages making this scribe think of Supertramp and Jethro Tull in pieces.
Colin’s lyrics possess this duality between optimism while time’s running shorter on his life – the scripture still a basis for what will take place in the afterlife, and how will humans handle the world down the line? Finally receiving a North American distribution deal with Metal Blade, Wytch Hazel could make some inroads because this is a classic 70’s-rooted hard rock/metal record dripping with all those deep qualities necessary to be a permanent staple of any ardent music collectors playlist.