Let’s tackle the obvious elephant in the room before we move onto the musical aspects here. (It’s a metaphorical elephant – don’t be scared.) You ever notice how you, as a metalhead, wake up and put on some shirt covered in severed limbs, satanic artwork, and an incomprehensible band logo? You adorn yourself in black and head out into the world looking oh-so-very-different than everyone else. You head to Target to purchase toilet paper and Target brand cereal and people look at you. Some of them admire your shirt, some cautiously glare from behind the big and tall section. Better yet, the checkout staff asks what your shirt says. It’s thrilling. You’re so unique.
But there is a dichotomy here. Later that evening — pretend we don’t have a pandemic on — you head to a metal show. For this, you pull out all the stops: boots, best t-shirt, leather/vegan leather jacket, oil in the hair, and some of your most blasphemous denim. But when you walk into the venue you immediately become lost in the crowd. Everyone is exactly the same. So are you:
a.) among your people;
2.) as Jeru said “ya playin’ yaself”; or
D.) an option I haven’t previously thought of.
That’s not really much of a point to make but it’s definitely something to think about. In my opinion, which is not your opinion, it’s a quite welcome change from the standard Satanica towards the not frequently touted antidisestablishmentarianism. Speaking merely as an analyst of metal: It’s very nice to have something different to get lost in and review. And I’d like to point out, as I have frequently, y’all don’t get to have your SATAN without acknowledging that Satan is part of the Judeo-Christian pantheon. That is my analysis (as a Jew). Anywho…
Interestingly, Hendra is quoted as saying that he was thinking about Fleetwood Mac’s legendary Rumours while writing Pentecost. And it’s a completely apt comparison given the result. The album is filled with hits. Catchy hooks, sexual tension, and tremendous hair feathering are clearly audible across the whole of it, just like Fleetwood Mac. Alright, they probably aren’t audible, but the album is packed with hits, catchy hooks, and vocal melodies that make your knees weak.
Anyways. That’s a whole bunch of introduction, right? It’s 2020. Who wants to read WORDS? Just tell me what’s cool already, right?
Shades of Thin Lizzy immediately bash you in the face as the guitars tear a hole in your chest using harmonized guitar leads. Don’t worry, pal. That hole is about to be filled up with love and lyrics and adventure. And the best part, you ask? The togetherness. There’s a lovely warm sound to the production and a collective call to arms in the vocals that makes the listener never feel alone in this world. These aren’t the tales of a lone knight on a mission to avenge the murder of his father and siblings and the kidnap of his mother. No. Rather, the tracks imbue a collective excitement and pure feeling of collective energy driven by the simple, metronomic backbeats of Jack Spencer riding his steed beside his partner-in-crime Andy Shackleton (probably a distant cousin of the great Edward ‘Baron’ Shackleton).
Also from the get-go, this album is just endlessly cluttered with beautiful hooks, memorable lyrics, and super fun singalongs, thus strengthening the feeling of never being alone. Just speed ahead to “I Will Not,” and you will be coaxed into singing “I will not… stand for this” triumphantly in your dog’s face as that beast continues to pant and ignore your threats. The catchy riffs fuel fist pumping, jittery legs, and pure euphoria inside the brain. This album is not just about fueling up for war — it’s also about FUN. And who doesn’t need a little fun in their lives?
A theme that pops up over and over is the theme of responsibility or at least taking responsibility for the sadness, death, and general awfulness that we, as humans, have wrought upon this rock. Nowhere is that theme more in your face than “Reap the Harvest.” Followed by a heavily acoustic track (“The Crown”) that is dripping with emotional pleas, “Reap the Harvest” perfectly sets that second track up by slowly reducing the “fun” aspect and increasing the responsibility aspect. You took out all those dishes, now you sure as hell better put them away before they get knocked off the counter and break.
That said, do not take the themes as a definitive view of the pleasing style and totally rocking backdrop. Once the emotive cello drops out, Wytch Hazel falls squarely into the business of flat-out rocking and rolling all over the two-inch digital tape. Much like “Spirit and Fire,” a simple harmonic groove sets the tempo as the track canters along, cleaning up after generations of miscreancy.
A note that hasn’t been mentioned yet is how well designed III:Pentecost is. Take, for example, the sixth track “Sonata”: First the cello, the one you’ve heard before and will hear again, rings out the familiar theme of the album (one that peaks its little head up from time to time). That key, the pacing, and the familiar tones will jump up in an exciting, thrilling, and aggressive manner as “I Will Not” kicks in. The compositional structure of the album is superb, making the overall experience one that is not only a standout, but also wholly memorable. Especially in a time when the average attention span is down to :03 seconds — thanks, Twitter — it does wonders to consistently bring up the same and similar melodic patterns.
I would like to put this simply and without hyperbole: Wytch Hazel’s III:Pentecost will figure very high in my year-end voting. But what is year-end voting worth? Many of those albums rank highly only to go and fade into distant memories. This album will figure heavily in my life. It is a work of timeless brilliance that is not likely to become irrelevant in theme or composition. This album will not take much time to sink in. It won’t hide out on your shelf, waiting for the right time to be played. It’s more like love at first sight, but instead of love, it’s obsession, and instead of a sexual partner, it’s the warm embrace of heavy metal.
Rock on, 1970s. Rock on.