Pendulum – Witchcraft

Release Date 19/07/2010 (Earstorm/Warner Bros)

By Steve Head

I reckon it’s fair to say that the various incarnations of Pendulum are arguably so different in style and content that it makes little sense to compare and contrast them. Of course there are core elements that resonate throughout their music, but their evolution from underground drum and bass to radio-friendly beats and guitar thrashery has rendered them a different sort of beast altogether. Granted this is all a matter for debate, but for the purpose of this review I’ll focus on ‘Witchcraft’ in the context of the heavy rock influenced style found on In Silico and new album Immersion, with no hint of “I liked them more when they sampled Willy Wonka and dropped bass so nasty it felt like deep-throating a hand grenade”. They’ve moved on, and I guess we should too.

‘Witchcraft’ is definitely one of the more accessible tracks on Immersion, and its stupidly catchy hook coupled with Rob Swire’s brooding and baleful vocal delivery make it a no-brainer second single. The lyrics are characteristically dark and combine with kick-your-face-in basslines and a tune that will crawl under your skin like some impossibly tenacious parasite. A dread laden atmosphere is apparent from the get go as the lyrics relate the plight of an anonymous endangered girl. The ominous sweeping verse builds to its climax unleashing a wall of distortion overlaid with the filthily sinister main riff, as Swire encourages his ladyfriend to in no uncertain terms, swiftly do one.

The single features a predictably tame radio edit with all the bass of a broken gameboy and a bucket of gratuitous treble, alongside two excellent and highly individual remixes by Netsky and John B.  The real winner here though is the Pendulum frontman’s epic Drumstep remix, in equal parts sublimely ethereal and heavier than a busload of American kids. The cheeky ‘whoop’ before the drop is the clincher, a massively satisfying moment that for me sums up what contemporary Pendulum are all about, straight up melody driven crowdpleasing anthems. With Swire quite open about his desire to constantly reinvent the band, it makes sense to catch this particular manifestation while you still can.

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