Wytch Hazel – “III: Pentecost” (Bad Omen Records)
Battle Helm Rating
‘…the music that shows the glory of God the most, in my opinion, is not music created by Christians. It’s Black Sabbath, you know…’, so speaketh Colin Hendra, founder of English medieval folk metallers Wytch Hazel, which is no small statement given the guitarist / vocalist also happens to be a Pentecostal Christian! With an unashamedly time warped sound drawing inspiration from 70s hard rockers like Jethro Tull along with Iron Maiden and the aforementioned Sabbath, expect to hear ethereal acoustics blended with metallic power chords as Hammond organs add to pianos and bounteous harmonies – and all to a distinct English touch bearing similarity to other English bands like Magnum. Taking over a year to complete given Hendra’s near obsession in wanting to deliver a perfect product, I have to say that this 3rd full length release does that in meticulous detail, adding to its already superb organic sound spoken word passages, delicate rain effects and even a cello rendition of Chopin’s ‘Funeral March’! Most of all though, the album achieves its main purpose of being epically stirring and hugely passionate throughout its 10 tracks, that while being diverse in tempo and mood, are both singularly and together in cumulative effect an utter joy to listen to and be captivated by. Beginning with Jack Spencer’s folk drumming and Andy Shackleton’s bass strumming, the powerful medieval melodies hook you in instantly on ‘I Am Redeemed’, and as they dance and twirl to make for the unfolding epic as told through Hendra’s double tracked vocals, the Hammond pumps in its magic, not forgetting the twin guitar splendour of Hendra and Alex Haslam bringing both subtle and overt treats of their own. Opening with acoustics and a subtle bass, but building through harder medieval riffs, nothing could prepare me for the soaring majestic chorus on ‘Archangel’ that stole my heart and brought nothing but tears of joy through its uplifting positivity made all the more emotional through the full bodied, multiply tracked guitars. Richly adorned by its beautiful medieval melodies, ‘Dry Bones’ lends to the epic style definitive of Clarkin and Catley, complete with a singalong power chorus although Hendra impresses with a few power screams of his own, although within the song’s overall depth and emotion. Even on the lighter touch ‘Reap The Harvest’ with its sounds of birdsong and flowing rivers, somber cellos and a lone piano providing an initial melancholy, the darker power chords reminiscent of Angel Witch add a dramatic touch momentarily before transitioning into a 70s bass led prog groove culminating in another powerful singalong pomp rock chorus. Closing with the folkloric ‘Ancient Of Days’, its plucked guitars and an enchanting female spoken word intro herald another galloping medieval melody stirring the heart as ethereal vocals and harmonies add even more charm while the twin guitars dance and joust to bring this epic quest sadly to an end. However, the memories and feeling that Hendra and Wytch Hazel leave you with will doubtless remain long after and forever…..truly magnificent.