Wow, wow and wow again, suddenly it’s 1974 and I’m in my beloved Sheffield City Hall waiting for a co-headliner between Uriah Heep and Jethro Tull. Of course, neither band wants to go on first so Ian Anderson and David Byron come up with the novel idea that both bands combine and they play the whole set as just the one band. The compere comes on stage, the lights dim ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage….Witchwood’ and the crowd goes wild. Sorry for getting a little fanciful there but this is the first time I have heard of the Italian band Witchwood and they have blown my tiny fragile mind! The publicity simply states that this should be filed under ‘Hard Rock, Prog, ’70s’ and there is the review in a nutshell as they are the four words in the English language that I love the most. So, who is this Italian band that sounds more British than most British bands do?
Well, it seems that Witchwood was formed in 2014 from the ashes of the most wonderfully named Buttered Bacon Biscuits with all of the musicians being well steeped in the British/’70s rock scene and, strangely, having also supported both Uriah Heep and Jethro Tull. It gets better as they also state that another important influence on them is the one and only Blue Oyster Cult so you have a band that has infused the essence of three of my favourite bands so no wonder I am in ’70s hard rock heaven.
Before The Winter is now Witchwood’s third album release following on from Litanies From The Wood in 2015 and Handful Of Stars in 2016 both of which I will now have to investigate as you will too when you hear this simply wonderful progressive rock album. So, let’s meet the incredible musicians who have brought this amazing album to life with Riccardo ‘Ricky’ Dal Pane on vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, Andrea ‘Andy’ Palli on drums, Stefano Steve Olivi on Hammond, piano, synth & Moog, Luca Celo Celotti on bass, Samuele ‘Sam’ Tesori on flute & harmonica and Antonino ‘Woody’ Stella on lead guitar. As a six piece, they make one hell of a sound with great riffs supported by a wonderful excess of Hammond organ and sublime flutes. The vocals of Andrea Palli are impeccable and totally accent free and you would automatically take it for granted that they are a British band as they sound so redolent of what was happening here in the early and mid ’70s. The album bursts into life with Anthem For A Child which immediately commands your attention and if you have grown up with Uriah Heep then this will grab you immediately. The wonders simply keep on coming as the band delivers a 57 minute master class in retro hard rock that is so much inspired by the bands of yesteryear (even though they are all still playing today) yet it is not a sort of tribute to any one particular band but more of a homage to a golden era of rock and roll.
The vinyl version features the bonus track Child Star, a cover of the T Rex/Marc Bolan song, and it’s a pity that it is not on the album as it is stunning, no other word for it and I’m sure that the pixie prince of glam rock would approve. The song writing is exemplary with amazing interplay and solos to literally die for. If you buy only one album this year then please make it Before The Winter as it is a magnificent rock album from a team of genuinely talented musicians. You are also highly recommended to check out the Buttered Bacon Biscuits album From The Solitary Woods which is another wonderful retro hard rock album of delights. What a band and what a find, this is life affirming progressive rock that demands to be heard!
Before The Winter track list
- Anthem For A Child (5:23)
- A Taste Of Winter (5:00)
- Feelin’ (4:10)
- Crimson Moon (5:05)
- Hesperus (8:33)
- No Reason To Cry (4:49)
- Nasrid (4:17)
- Crazy Little Lover (7:42)
- Slow Colours Of Shade (10:41)
- Child Star (LP bonus track) (6:41)