Wytch Hazel’s stellar 2016 debut Prelude confirmed these Lancastrian apprentice wizards to be Britain’s most promising new hard rock band. Two years on, that promise comes to abundant fruition on II: Sojourn, an album that moves Wytch Hazel on from the innocence and exuberance of the debut to a darker, more profound and complex place, carefully wrought into optimum shape by the band’s singer, guitarist, songwriter and mastermind Colin Hendra. “I’m really into the idea of an album,” notes Colin. “I don’t do mix-tapes, I don’t listen to singles, I’m interested in albums. I want to make a good, listenable, cohesive work, that is the whole thing.”
Since the release of Prelude Colin has become a father, a life-changing event that may explain the greater maturity and equilibrium to be found within the grooves of II: Sojourn, “a concept album, but not in the traditional sense,” Colin explains. “It’s quite strongly themed: side A is ‘The Plight’ and side B is ‘The Victory’. It goes from negative subject matter to something far more lifted, almost yin and yang really. Sides A and B are different works, but they’re meant to be together; the light highlights the dark.”
This double-edged concept manifests itself most satisfyingly in the thematic ‘mirroring’ of the tracklist. II: Sojourn begins with tight, nervy headbanger The Devil Is Here and ends with the solemn chamber melodies of Angel Take Me. Insanely catchy swashbucklers Still We Fight and Victory both address themes of battle, but the former has a war-weary melancholy and the latter a jubilant surge. Wait On The Wind broods with the threatening darkness of the elements, while tender ballad Barrow Hill celebrates their beauty and peace. “I spent hours and hours painstakingly deliberating about how I wanted each track to flow into the next,” affirms Colin, “shuffling the tracks, working out how to organise it, the idea of the two sides, of yin and yang and the progression of light overcoming the darkness. I probably put too much stress into it, blood, sweat, tears and everything! But if I’m going to do this, I want to do it properly. I might as well not do it unless I’m going to give it one hundred percent.”
Asked what inspirations were brought to bear this time, Colin has good news, and even better taste: “I was listening to plenty of Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy and Wishbone Ash last year,” remarks the frontman. “This seems to be more of a hard rock album, where the last one was more rock-folk. It’s definitely more rock than folk!” The most crucial influence fully expresses itself via Les Paul guitars in sweet twin harmony through cranked Super Lead Marshalls – “Exactly the same type of amp that Thin Lizzy would have used,” beams Colin – a benefit of working in James Atkinson’s Hand Of Law Studio, a converted gaolhouse in Leeds. “We knew there would be a lot more great gear, more amps, more options,” enthuses Colin of this productive new work environment. “We were more prepared, we planned better. I had a lot more vocals to record on this album, pretty much every song has at least three harmonies, but James is a really chilled out guy, he made it easy for us. I had a very clear idea of how I wanted each song to sound, I thought about every single aspect. I probably over-prepared for this album, and it paid off!”
Wytch Hazel’s proud, avowed Protestant Christianity continues to set them apart from the occult hocus-pocus of their peers, and the very title Sojourn has a Biblical inspiration: “It’s used a lot in the Old Testament, people would travel somewhere to stay for a short period of time,” explains Colin, comparing the idea to Wytch Hazel’s development since Prelude. “We’re going to reside here with this sound for a while, and the next album might not sound the same. Come and have a listen to this aspect of Wytch Hazel – it’s a temporary stay. We’ll be here for a while, then there will be something else. I’m always writing, it’s a constant stream, but I’m always trying to raise the bar, because I don’t want the next album to be not as good as the other ones!”
On the 9th February 2013, four years ago last Thursday, we (Angel Witch) were in Bochum, Germany, on tour with Grand Magus.
In the dressing room Joseph and Tobias from the opening band Enforcer, played me the demo they had recorded with their other band CC Company and asked me if I’d be interested in putting it out for them.
And that was that! Bad Omen Records was formed….
Since then we have gone on to release records from Satan’s Satyrs, Wretch, Wytch Hazel, Spell and more… We even did a vinyl pressing of Witchfynde’s 1970’s demos – plus that CC Company demo came out as a 7” in the end.
The other day, reflecting on how four years can go past in the blink of an eye, I put together a few of my favourite tracks from the Bad Omen catalogue into a playlist.
Then I thought that I may as well give them away to anyone who wants to hear them.
I added a couple of unreleased smashers (Wretch pummelling their way through Motorhead’s “Sweet Revenge” and Wytch Hazel’s re-recorded version of their old favourite “Surrender”) and there you have it: DOWNLOAD HERE
I hope you like it,
Bad Omen Records
In the parallel universe where the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal happened 600 years early, WYTCH HAZEL are the band of choice for the discerning Plantagenet headbanger. The folk-rock eccentricity of Jethro Tull, the mystical harmony of Wishbone Ash & Thin Lizzy, and the exuberance of prime NWOBHM, immersed in sacred medieval influences via David Munrow’s Early Music Consort of London; on their debut long-player Prelude, Lancastrian hard rockers WYTCH HAZEL have happened upon an extremely singular and compelling alchemy.
For audio and pre-orders: CLICK HERE
Satan’s Satyrs will perform as rotating main support with Electric Citizen on the forthcoming Pentagram tour of the East Coast.
All dates and info is HERE
On March 31st 2015 Satan’s Satyrs will take to the road once again for a coast to coast North American tour as support to the British doom behemoth Electric Wizard.
More info here
The Bad Omen winter sale is now on, with 30% OFF EVERYTHING IN STORE from now until midnight on 31st December 2014 (GMT).
Simply enter the code: BADOMEN30 at checkout for a 30% discount on all vinyls, CD’s & shirts (including some returned Satan’s Satyrs tour stock from their recent ‘Europe Dies Again’ run – available in limited numbers).
As luck would have it Satan’s Satyrs are in London that night for a layover on their trip up to Muskelrock in Sweden, so they have been added to the bill as support.
The venue only holds 150 people and so it’ll be tight in there. Wristbands will be available, on a first come / first served basis, from 5pm on the day.