Review: Wytch Hazel – II: Sojourn
At first blush you may be forgiven for thinking Wytch Hazel is one of the old guard traditional metal bands from the 70’s or 80’s, and that they just happened to be releasing a new album this year. The group is fairly recent, though, only beginning to release material in 2012. II: Sojourn is the band’s sophomore album.
Sojourn is a strong power metal/hard rock record with a heavy mix of NWOBHM style. No surprise there since they list Iron Maiden as a huge influence. The record starts out with one hell of an earworm, “The Devil is Here.” Strong harmonies and galloping guitars swiftly carry you through a supremely solid tune that sounds effortlessly performed; it’s old-school tribute without feeling hackneyed.
Most of the tracks on Sojourn have lyrical themes exploring frontman Colin Hendra’s Christian faith, but they’re anything but preachy. The record is a loose concept album in two parts: Side A is The Plight and Side B is The Victory. Many of the songs in the first half of the record have a mirror in some way or another on the second half of the record, though it’s not necessarily readily apparent that the album was structured in this way.
“Barrow Hill” does mark a notably more positive turn on the album, a 70’s style acoustic ballad complete with organ. It’s here where the fuzzy vibes start coming in. “Chorale” continues the use of organ, this time starting out with an organ solo that showcases one of the band’s other influences of early church music. Guitars quickly take over, however, making for one rousing and triumphant instrumental track that leads directly to “Slaves to Righteousness.” This is probably the most aggressive track on the record to me in terms of the Christian themes, but it’s also the most elated, galloping tracks and more importantly it’s another track that makes for one hell of an earworm.
“Victory” continues the earworm train and also comes closest to what I’d imagine heavy metal church music would sound like, especially at that ending with the Picardy third pulling things up into a rich and full major chord. Because “Victory” ends so strongly, I would maybe have switched the order of the last two tracks if it were me, as the final track, “Angel Take Me” is another mostly acoustic ballad that if nothing else feels slightly out of place after the song before it.
II: Sojourn is a strong record that manages to explore Christian faith without feeling preachy. There are a few sections where the vocals could stand to be pushed more forward into the mix, but other than that the performance, songwriting, and production are all top-notch. Keep this band on your radar for sure.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
II: Sojourn is out now through Bad Omen Records and Riding Easy Records