While Black Road’s 2017 self-titled debut largely sounded like bluesy hard rock with some doomy tinges, the Chicago group offers the literal opposite approach on Witch of the Future. The album gets the blues out of its system almost immediately with the opening instrumental “Purgatory” and the sweeping title track, but the latter ends up giving way to overtly metallic riff work and a groovy tempo shift through its ten-minute runtime. The album’s second half pushes this even further with heavy cuts like the 70s swagger of “Blood of the Blade” and the psych-drenched “Hash King.”
This album also plays up the ominous atmosphere that was merely hinted at on the debut. One can find the occasional keyboard or creepy lead tucked away in the mix while the vocal lines and layering weave about the songs in a spooky fashion, giving credence to the occult lyrics. It’s conveyed the most powerfully at the album’s midway point with “Torches,” a major highlight thanks to its oppressively dark atmosphere and pounding rhythms that feel like a cross between Rush’s “Witch Hunt” and Soundgarden’s “Beyond the Wheel.”
Like the debut before it though, Witch of the Future is absolutely dominated by the guitar playing. Tim M. continues to prove himself as one of the most talented players in our generation, mixing organically fluid blues leads and soloing with choppy gallops and solid doom riffs. The tone might’ve benefitted from a little extra crunch and bottom end, but the bass has a consistently fuzzy presence and the drums are sufficiently hefty. The vocals also maintain a healthy balance, keeping some distance without being standoffish and vibrant without getting too in your face.
Considering how Black Road started off so strong on their 2017 debut, it’s impressive to see them get even better with Witch of the Future. The move to a heavier sound feels natural as it never cuts into the group’s organic musicianship and is only strengthened by their pre-existing aesthetic. Their style is more accessible than a good bulk of their peers and they have the chops to deter accusations of watering down. Even if you have grown fatigued with the occult rock sound, Black Road always offers a fresh variation.
“Witch of the Future”