Wytch Hazel sounds like Thin Lizzy as fronted by Pagan Altar’s Terry Jones. Such a combination seems out there but it makes sense when you consider both bands often brought rustic storytelling and subtle folk influence into their respective approaches to hard rock. The formula worked on 2016’s Prelude and it may work even better on Wytch Hazel’s second full-length, II: Sojourn.
The musicianship certainly lives up to the cleanliness promised by the album’s crystal-clear production. That Lizzy influence shines brightest in the guitar work as one can hear the familiar twin setup delivering intricate Celtic harmonies, driving gallops, upbeat shuffles, and rootsy acoustic work. The rhythm section also gets to stand out, particularly whenever those harmonies kick in on songs like the swinging “Save My Life.” The vocals also do a good job of capturing Terry Jones’ wispy character, though the tone is used more for youthful evangelizing than an old man’s ghost stories.
It also helps that the songwriting strikes an excellent balance between dynamics and catchiness. This is best demonstrated by the back to back “Still My Fight” and “Wait on the Wind.” Both songs adhere to more or less conventional structures, but the former is a largely fast-paced rocker with a slow bridge that effectively grinds the momentum to a halt while the latter is a subdued ballad that gradually picks up speed at its climax. It’s still somewhat formulaic, but that arguably ensures instant accessibility.
The band also managed to save the best songs for last. “Chorale” brings the album back to life after a more ballad-oriented song sequence, allowing “Slaves of Righteousness” to deliver its gospel in a sweeping fashion and “Victory” to follow it up with another solid swing. “Angel Take Me” makes for a smooth closer and its subtle piano results in the album’s most effective ballad.
Sojourn is a couple basic choruses and a somewhat sluggish middle away from hitting that true classic status, but it is an incredibly enjoyable listen that improves the debut’s formula. The breezy songwriting may make it an easy gateway for casual listeners, but there’s enough variety and care in the arrangement to keep from feeling too shallow. There seems to be a herd of Thin Lizzy soundalikes floating about in recent years, but Wytch Hazel might be the best of the lot.
“Save My Life”
“Still My Fight”
“Slaves of Righteousness”
“Angel Take Me”