Exactly four albums deep in their career, UK metal traditionalists Wytch Hazel have blessed us with yet another noble outing.
When listening to Wytch Hazel, one can immediately think of Wishbone Ash, a pre-NWOBHM act that reportedly was a large influence on Iron Maiden, their harmonized twin riffing rubbing off on a group of lads from East London who went on to become a worldwide phenomenon. Wytch Hazel’s latest album, IV: Sacrament, continues along that golden road with spiritual lyrics that emphasize heroism, virtue, and perseverance sans preachiness of any sort.
Early Magnum vaguely comes to mind when prancing opening track “The Fire’s Control” bursts through the window, glowing axes cutting through hordes of iniquity and mediocrity, Colin Hendra’s rich, elegant vocals commandeering a ship of wise men sailing on winds of Quixotic glory and enlightenment.
Second cut “Angel of Light” reverts to a Thin Lizzy shuffle, the guitar team of Hendra and Alex Haslam doing their best to pay tribute to Gary Moore and Scott Gorham in their own lamenting, battle-scarred way.
Vocal harmonies fit the themes of the record, the band seemingly on a possibly futile quest to restore honor and magic to the realm, compositions such as “Time and Doubt,” the rocky and inspirational “Strong Heart,” rousing call-to-arms “Deliver Us,” and the philosophical, dream-like epic of an album finale “Digging Deeper” raining down restorative moonbeams from mythical Avalon in what remain uncertain, chaotic times.
Featuring impeccable musicianship and thoughtful songwriting, this latest offering from Wytch Hazel doesn’t break new ground for the band, and aside from that, a brief instrumental, and one mellow track, the fan of the “old ways” of metal will have little to complain about. There aren’t a lot of bands toiling away out in the fields fighting for righteousness that are quite like Wytch Hazel. That’s reason enough to give Sacrament a spin and for the uninitiated to pierce the mists of time and explore this ensemble’s even worthier back catalogue. Wytch Hazel are immortal knights errant, lost in a place and era that they never made and is not their own. Put away the death and thrash metal for a moment, take a break from sheer brutality, and join Wytch Hazel’s crusade, if only for an evening. It may replenish you a little. After all, one has to cleanse the palette every so often.