Wytch Hazel – “IV: Sacrament”


I only recently have become familiar with Wytch Hazel and have become quite enamored with their unique sound, middle-ages imagery and inspiring message. Earlier this year, I went to visit my Mom before she passed away. The day after she passed away, I noticed that “IV: Sacrament” was released on Spotify and streamed it while doing funeral prep work in my hotel room. Needless to say this album is somewhat important to me personally, but as a good music reviewer, I’ll keep things as unbiased as possible.

WH is a British band formed in 2011 around the lead song-writer Colin Hendra. Inspired by the roots of metal more than the modern masters, they looked to the great wealth of inspiration around Britain in the 1970s. A few key influences they have cited include Thin Lizzy, Jethro Tull, and Iron Maiden. They have a folk feel that hearkens back to antiquated times of England with knights, castles, and medieval battles. Lyrically, they draw on that imagery particularly around the prevalent sense of Christendom during the middle ages. Although not marketed as a Christian band, there is no doubt that the Christian faith inspires the lyrics. After some lineup shuffles and demos/singles, WH landed their first album “Prelude” in 2016 with Bad Omens records. They then released a record every two years with “II: Sojourn” in 2018 and “III: Pentecost” in 2020. With a three year gap with “IV: Sacrament,” we get a sense that life or international pandemics may have impacted the timing for this one.

Now to the offering at hand. Each WH album shows a refinement on an unchanging musical vision. They know what they want to sound like and with each release, that vision gets sharper. At the fourth studio release, this vision is clearer than it has ever been. We have all the goodness that has preceded this album such as sweet melodies, twin guitars, solid song writing, and infectious rhythms with acoustic folk sprinkled throughout. The production is on point for their niche with a warm rich tone reminiscent of the 70s with pristine modern clarity. Lyrically we get spiritual battles, the Holy Spirit, growing older, and other musings that misplaced peasants from the middle ages would consider.

We start the album off with the high energy “The Fire’s Control.” The opening twin guitar riff gives a good helping of one of the characteristic WH elements. The drums have a grooving feel that keeps the song moving forward with off-beat sustained guitar chords that support the vocals. There is an infectious rhythm that you can’t help but bob your head and tap your foot. The chorus has a catchy hook to it. The lyrics in the bridge ask the listener, “are you afraid of the fire?” The fire has this dual image of both the Holy Spirit and the fires of the hell. It is a good opener to the album that is true to WH’s sound.

As the album unfolds, I am drawn mostly by the lyrics and Colin’s vocal delivery. Let’s start with the lyrics. “Angel of Light” addresses the need to be ready for battle against Satan who is the “Angel of Light.” The bridge sees Colin figuratively turn to this angel and say, “turn your face to me, I will battle thee,” which is a great reminder that we will battle evil every day and we shouldn’t shy from it. But later in “Endless Battle” we get a sense it isn’t by our own power that we battle evil and win, but that “the battle is the Lord’s.” What makes these really work is Colin’s characteristic vocal delivery. He has a good tenor range and can push it to herald in a solo or musical high point, but his timbre is rather unique drawing much from a folk tradition more so than heavy metal. The vocal melodies are also quite catchy which helps capture the song within your head, which is a good thing with such quality truth within the lyrics.

The song writing is solid, but I wouldn’t say is flashy. The go-to style is Thin Lizzy style dual guitar and dramatic melodic choruses. On a couple of tracks, we get harder riffing such as “Strong Heart” and “Endless Battle” but not as heavy as 80s style metal. The bass work on the album was fantastic and enjoyed the times that it came more to the forefront such as on the acoustic track “Future is Gold,” where the bass drives the rhythm. There is also some quite tasty bass work in the finale, “Digging Deeper.” The drums I think did a good job setting a folk-like rhythm but didn’t take many chances in fills and other improvisation.

The album’s closing track “Digging Deeper” pulls together the best parts of WH to finish off. The start is with an intricate twin guitar motif leading into Colin’s singing with bass and drum support. As the song evolves, I hear lead guitars layering in emotional depth that I didn’t hear in previous tracks on the album. The typical instrumental section of the song gets a double treat in a melodic display of twin guitars leading into a solid proper guitar solo, cashing in on the emotional build-up earlier. The odd part to the song is the outro which is an upbeat hopeful motif that is played into a fade out. Maybe this is a “To be continued…” moment to build anticipation for a future release.

In conclusion, “IV: Sacrament” is a solid album from WH and would be a welcome introduction to the band if you haven’t been introduced yet. I like listening to this album particularly to help cleanse my palate from heavier, denser, or more intense music because it has a lighter feel. For those of you out there that enjoy the folk roots of hard rock and metal from the 70s, this fills a woefully under-represented sound. I am definitely looking forward to their next release!

Rating: 8.5/10

Written by Sean Bailey

1 – The Fire’s Control
2 – Angel of Light
3 – Time and Doubt
4 – Strong Heart
5 – Deliver Us
6 – A Thousand Years
7 – Gold Light
8 – Endless Battle
9 – Future Is Gold
10 – Digging Deeper

Wytch Hazel is:
Colin Hendra – guitars, vocals, piano, organ and drums (album only)
Alex Haslam – guitars
Andrew Shackleton – bass guitar
Aaron Hay – drums

Guest: Ed Turner – Mandolin and Mellotron

Release Date: June 2, 2023

Record Label: Bad Omen Records

Prelude (2016)
II: Sojourn (2018)
III: Pentecost (2020)
IV: Sacrament (2023)

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Video for ‘The Fire’s Control’

Video for ‘Angel of Light’

Video for ‘Strong Heart’

Lyric Video for ‘A Thousand Years’

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