One of the best albums of 2018 was Wytch Hazel’s II: Sojourn. It was tied for the #10 spot on my Top 10 Metal list, but I should not have put down Seventh Wonder’s Tiara instead of it because, now in January, I am repeatedly returning to listen to Wytch’s Hazel’s great concept album of metal in the classic style, instead of Seventh Wonder.
Take a look at that album cover. Isn’t it just awesome? And the picture sums up the story of the album. You can gaze at it as you listen, if you like. It helps to draw you in to the story.
“The Devil is Here” kicks off the album with the theme of the arrival of the enemy who must be fought in war. After three tracks chronicling the warrior’s battles, we then have the magnificent “See My Demons” (track #5) which pairs incredible music with the poignant theme of the PTSD of a medieval war veteran. (This was the first track to really grab my attention: its nimble musicality is truly excellent.)
But then our hero finds redemption on the next track, “Barrow Hill,” which (obviously anachronistically but nonetheless theologically timelessly) echoes famous lines from the hymn “Amazing Grace,” as our hero speaks of once being lost but now being found (and later on this album’s side he will even sing of once being blind but now seeing).
Born again from this spiritual rejuvenation, we then get the album’s best two tracks next, which are cross-faded into one another for one big long proggy epic: “Chorale” and “Slaves to Righteousness.” The former begins with a church organ solo and then breaks into a breakneck instrumental of rocking out, whereas the latter has our spiritually rejuvenated hero riding again into the final crucial battle, obedient to righteousness.
Our hero then achieves “Victory” in the penultimate track, but of course as in every great war movie this hero sacrifices his life for the victory, so in the final track “Angel Take Me” we have his dying prayer on the battlefield. The great part of this album is that it is neither pro-war nor pro-religious propaganda but rather just fine storytelling and excellent classic metal. Don’t make my mistake of underrating it, until giving it a chance for a few more listens. It packs a real punch, so enjoy at maximum volume.