First off, do not be fooled. “Black Metal” is not a black metal album. For that matter it is not a Witchcraft album either. So what gives?
What “Black Metal” really is is a solo acoustic album by Witchcraft mastermind Magnus Pelander. Because of this, it sounds more like his side solo project Pelander. It’s a bit puzzling as to why it was not released under that moniker. I supposed Witchcraft would get more attention.
So with all of this out of the way, how is the music? Well it has a few things going for it. Pelander is a great vocalist and a great writer. But even that doesn’t save it. Soundwise, it reminds me a bit of My Morning Jacket (not as good though), in that Pelander uses a fair amount of echo on his vocals. The songs are good but I wouldn’t rank them among the best that Witchcraft/Pelander have done. Fair from it to be honest. I’m curious if any of them would sound better if they were fleshed out more. These really sound more like acoustic demos than final versions.
The other issue is the overall length. It’s a brief 34 minutes and given that the songs don’t always seem like they have a clear direction, I suppose 34 minutes might actually be a good idea. For example, “Sad People” just moves so slowly and at times it seems like Pelander is still working it out. It comes across as unfinished. Certainly it lacks any sort of polish. And that’s really true of “Black Metal” as a whole.
“Grow” clocks in at almost 8 minutes and actually works the best for me, other than probably being a little longer than needed. It does move along and has nice melody lines. The other issue is that midway thru there’s a sameness that creeps in. Without anything other than Pelander’s voice and acoustic guitar, there’s little options to make things songs any more than they are.
At best, the songs are nice and the performance committed. The problem is there’s nothing compelling about this album. It sounds like something done to fulfill a contract. Recorded in day? It very well could have been, I am not sure. It’s very disappointing considering the great albums that Witchcraft have done. “Legend” is essential. “Black Metal” is more of a throwaway album for completists only.
1. Elegantly Expressed Depression
2. A Boy And A Girl
3. Sad People
5. Free Country
6. Sad Dog
7. Take Him Away
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 1 May 2020