Wytch Hazel – “II: Sojourn” (Bad Omen Records)
If metal be thy steel and noble quest is what thou seekest, then take mine hand and journey forth with Wytch Hazel! Immersed in sacred medieval influences, Scottish and Irish folk, as well as 70s British hard rock like Wishbone Ash, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant and Thin Lizzy comes Wytch Hazel. One of these island’s archetypal bands, this Lancastrian quarter cheerily fly in the face of popular convention to be lost in a world some 600 years in the past, along with founder guitarist / vocalist Colin Hendra’s eccentric vision of doing pretty much everything old (or mebbe that should read olde?) school. From donning Les Pauls to using stacks of Super Lead Marshalls (exactly the same type of amp Lizzy would’ve used), featuring at least 3 vocal harmonies on every song to their avowed Protestant Christianity, it’s pretty clear that Wytch Hazel aren’t your average rock band – so Satan beware! Besides their ‘battle ready’ stage clothes, however, there’s a very serious side to Hendra & co that is played out time and again in their stirring music. Composed with religious conviction and played to obsession levels of perfection, the 10 tracks on this sophomore truly resonate rustic glory and deep passion, all of which add up to a highly catchy and unforgettable album. Savouring the epic passion on ‘Save My Life’ with its charming interweaving guitar melodies and genteel plucked strings contrasted magnificently by steely riffs and Hendra’s own soulful vocals, this is renaissance stuff indeed from an age gone by, but whose lure still holds true to this day. More quieter but no less lush in its ethereal emotion is ‘Wait On The Wind’, with those layered vocals coming into great play here before the power comes galloping in and the guitars send off the song splendidly with some gusto before returning to their tranquillity. Offering a beautiful if too short instrumental in ‘Chorale’ complete with majestic church organs, the warbling guitars drawn from Lizzy and Maiden together ooze bunches of medieval melody while returning to epic glory on the aptly titled ‘Victory’, where resonating power chords glide alongside Hendra’s soulful voice folkishly telling the tale as bountiful guitar melodies build before culminating in an exquisite guitar solo. Quite the album and so much more, it’s easy to see why Wytch Hazel are one of Britain’s top underground bands and on this sophomore they amply prove it, so ride out with them onto the mists of Avalon!