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IV: Sacrament

by Wytch Hazel

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bugomag
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bugomag Stumbled upon this gem by accident. The band itself has been recommended to me by a friend many moons ago. So damn catchy. Favorite track: Angel of Light.
pinkytheent
pinkytheent thumbnail
pinkytheent What a BEAUTIFUL album. Spellbinding. I knew from the rich and lush chords kicking off the very first song that this would be something special. I cannot resist these chiming, gleaming, most holy riffs. The spine-tingling guitar and vocal harmonies are truly magical and make me want to dive into early English music! An earnest spirit of the sacred suffuses this album, one which waters the earth of whatever you choose to draw: faith, resilience, strength, sorrow. Favorite track: The Fire's Control.
Wheels of Mercury
Wheels of Mercury thumbnail
Wheels of Mercury Regardless of if I believe in the lyrics or not (I don't, but if you happen to, that's cool!), this is the catchiest album of 2023. I cannot count how many times these songs have gotten stuck in my head throughout the second half of the year. A future Christian rock classic for sure! Favorite track: The Fire's Control.
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1.
Feelings are scattered they are broken now Feelings are no longer enough Listen the spirit He is speaking now This is the help from above Your path it will lead you to a certain fire Your path it will lead you to your death But under the guidance of the holy fire There you will find purpose and rest Open your eyes open your heart open your soul Now is the time surrender your life to the fire's control Are you afraid of the fire? Are you afraid of the fire? Are you afraid of the fire? Are you afraid of the Holy Spirit? Are you afraid of the fire? Are you afraid of the fire? Are you afraid of the fire? Are you afraid of the Fires of Hell? Fires of Hell!
2.
We have won the war but I have lost this fight We're against a darkness that shows itself as light Fooling and devouring eating us alive Searching for a way through this labyrinth of lies Fallen again, when will it end? I opened the door; I welcomed the Demon right in Show me the way to do what you say I will stand tall I will stand firm in The Truth Weary and defeated only for a time Appealing for some aid or a shift of paradigm Evil has prevailed here hope is running low Truth was our main weapon now victory is slow Fallen again, when will it end? I opened the door; I welcomed the Demon right in Show me the way to do what you say I will stand tall I will stand firm in The Truth Faithful stand and be faithful Prepare for the fight Angel He is the Angel The Angel of Light Angel look to me turn your face to me I will battle thee I will battle thee
3.
Time it marches on, moving forwards Time it will not wait for anyone It won’t discriminate, death comes quickly Can’t just give my life to anyone Feels like I can’t cling to truth anymore Striving it all seems in vain Longing for light that is simple and strong The hope that I will live again I want answers, I want answers Take me back to the start Time advances, Time advances Time is breaking my heart All I used to know, it was simple How can I reclaim that innocence? Now surrounding me: death and darkness This is anything but innocence Feels like I can’t cling to truth anymore Striving it all seems in vain Longing for light that is simple and strong The hope that I will live again I want answers, I want answers Take me back to the start Time advances, Time advances Time is breaking my heart All my time running out ever am I living in doubt
4.
You have strength that's underneath Even when the hurt is deep Surrounded by demons like never before The power is in you just open the door Wounds have been opened But you are not broken You have a strong heart now Oh that spell that you're under The hope that you hunger Tells of a strong heart now Face the battle by your might See your spirit taking flight Surrounded by fire nothing but hell Conquering darkness breaking the spell
5.
Deliver Us 04:02
Spirits rise against the light War will rage by day and by night His return hear the sound Demons are coming now Demons are coming now Deliver us from the evil one Stay with us ‘til the fighting’s done Deliver us from the evil one Be with us ‘til the battle’s won Satan’s plan it is revealed We hold firm to our sword and shield Suffering sorrow resounds Legions are coming now Legions are coming now Demons are coming now Legions are coming now But the King He is coming now The King He is coming now!
6.
Evil released to deceive Waging a war upon the earth Battle has only begun This death is the second not the first Faithful reign, reign with Christ They stand firm they have paid with their life They the first, first in him Now remembered no more is their sin Saints in the pages of life They have been saved from endless fire Him who is sat on the throne His ways are beyond his ways are higher Satan is chained for a thousand years Cast into the ground Saints they will reign for a thousand years They will bear the crown The Lamb will reign forever beyond a thousand years For His name be honoured and feared above all fears
7.
Gold Light 01:24
8.
When I face my enemy, I will ride with risen blade No, I will not be afraid for He goes along with me I do battle with the sword, but the battle is the lords Facing my foes, truth they oppose Freedom is won by the King I fight this endless battle no I will never grow weak My quest will end in victory all my enemies He will defeat When I see the battle ground no my heart will not grow faint Pushing on with no restraint I will make my praises loud Marching bold into the fray for the Lord will win the day For the battle is the Lords
9.
Without all the answers without all the hope I will cling to freedom I am not alone Time to let go of the past my ways of old I see a freedom at last future is gold Future is Gold Future is Gold Time is racing forwards, but time is on my side I have life eternal, but I will live this life Time to let go of the past my ways of old I see a freedom at last future is gold Future is Gold Future is Gold Gold Gold Without all the answers without all the hope I will cling to freedom I am not alone
10.
Every day, longing oh and what for? Will there be an end to all the suffering? Is my quest a noble one is my heart pure? Will I die alone in wasted battling? Always digging deeper The race against the reaper See my body breaking The sacred I'm forsaking I could go any day no one knows when Will I be remembered will I leave a trace? Endlessly in battle ground when will it end? Is it worth the fight or is it all a waste? The fight within growing weaker Oh! I cannot go any deeper Light within glowing dimmer Oh! I cannot go any deeper You possess the victory A faith a place, a destiny Songs refrains created Melodies so sacred

about

For many all-time-great rock bands in the ascendant, the fourth album is often the point where youthful years of febrile creativity and progressive momentum culminate in a masterwork for the ages, setting the seal on an early signature sound while opening it up to future possibilities. From enchanting 2016 debut Prelude, through 2018’s assured II: Sojourn, to 2020’s wizardly III: Pentecost, each Wytch Hazel album has embodied that old-fashioned notion of unstoppable progress, and the glittering treasure chest that is IV: Sacrament proves eminently worthy of rising to the toughest challenge. Not just the Lancashire quartet’s most classically beautiful production, but their strongest yet front-to-back collection of affecting hooks and ageless melodies.

A very tough challenge it was, too; records this good don’t get banged out willy-nilly, and Jimmy Page, Ian Anderson and Freddie Mercury didn’t have to fit recordings in between day jobs and school runs. “This album has been a trial,” sighs founding singer/guitarist Colin Hendra with his head in his hands, his voice full of cold. “It’s been a tough few years for everyone, which plays into it, but it was exhausting. Working full time, trying to be a dad and husband, running the band, writing the albums - and being a complete control freak about every aspect of the process...” Colin breaks off and chuckles at his Eeyorish approach to album promotion. “But there’s no gain without pain!”

The triumphs and tragedies are written all over IV: Sacrament. Working closely again with regular producer Ed Turner, Colin’s God-given gift for diamond songwriting has been enhanced to majestic proportions with Ed’s Roy Thomas Baker doozy of a production job, his expressive sonic trickery sublimely underscoring the varied musical moods. “Me and Ed like the same albums, so we’re singing from the same hymn sheet every time,” enthuses Colin. “We love the Sabbath production, obviously Martin Birch, and the Queen albums; we want it to sound like Wytch Hazel, which it kind of always does, but we want it to also have that classic sort of quality.”

Colin describes his working relationship with Ed as “perfectionism amplified. We’re a good match but bad at the same time! It takes ages to get an album done, but if it’s going to be done we want to do it right.” The new studio looked promising: a converted Baptist chapel in rural Wales, chock full of vintage gear. However, with personal reasons forcing drummer Jack Spencer to step back from the band (subsequently departing in September 2022), Colin took on the additional laborious task of completing all the drums himself. As well as all the vocals, lyrics, lead guitar and drums to fret over, there were so many mysteriously blown cabs, amps and vocal cords you might suspect the Devil was trying to stop anyone else getting the best tunes. “I don’t know why we have such bad luck,” groans Colin. “Engineers were scratching their heads, like ‘how have you done this?!’”

Now Sacrament is finally offered - and sounds as fantastic as it does after all the blood, toil, tears and sweat - you might think Colin could finally bask in the glory of this resounding achievement, but he’s not even fully comfortable taking credit for his own songs. “When I listen back there are multiple times when I’m like, I don’t even know how this happened,” he ponders. “I know I wrote it, but I don’t feel complete ownership over them. It has that sense in which... there’s something else, and I’m a part of it.” On previous albums, specific influences were readily discernible, and although Angel Of Light tips a nod to Angel Witch and Endless Battle nails the sweet spot between Steeleye Span and Judas Priest, Sacrament’s ten songs zero in on a sound and style that’s all their own. With assertive, explosive earworms like The Fire’s Control, Strong Heart and A Thousand Years and the profound emotive magnetism of Time And Doubt, Deliver Us and Digging Deeper, Wytch Hazel revel in their distinctive Wytch Hazelness. Colin’s Christian faith continues to inform much of his lyrical outlook, but there’s a disarming openness and emotional force that might have you reaching for the Kleenex.

“It’s some of the most honest songwriting I’ve ever done,” Colin reflects, “and they come from a darker place, I think. I’m getting older, that comes through in some lyrics: ‘see my body breaking’, ‘I’m digging deeper’, ‘time’s running out...’ I struggle to see the positive a lot of the time, so the songs end up being negative, the subject matter coming from constant striving.” Among all the doomsayer tendencies, gorgeous sylvan acoustic strum Future Is Gold proclaims a radiant optimism, but it’s more hope in the eternal than an expectation of earthly improvement. “It’s rooted in scripture,” Colin explains, referencing the Book of Haggai: ‘the glories of this latter house will be greater than the former’. “I struggle to believe that half the time, with the state of the world, but who knows what level that is? Will the afterlife be better, when all suffering has ended, or is what we see as better not actually better? If things are always going comfortably, it isn’t always the best thing for us. An element of suffering is necessary.”

Suffering has clearly been necessary for the creation of the fourth Wytch Hazel album; let’s hope for Colin’s sake the next one requires a bit less. “I’ve blown my own mind a bit,” he concludes. “And even after all this painstaking work, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what we could be doing musically. I wish I could have a month to work on one song, and go on a tangent a bit. I will in the future, it’s going in the right direction. I’ll get to the stage when I can commit more time and do an odyssey or something!”

credits

released June 2, 2023

Drums, Guitars, Vocals, Piano & Organ - Colin Hendra
Guitars - Alex Haslam
Bass Guitar – Andrew Shackleton

Mandolin & Mellotron – Ed Turner

Recorded at StudiOwz, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Produced and mixed by Ed Turner
Engineered by Owain Fleetwood Jenkins
Mastered By Terry Waker at Tonalex

Photos by Sam Scott Hunter
Artwork & Layout Nathaniel Winter Herbert

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