Back to their roots
Sometimes it’s okay to go back to basics. For the first time since Eels’ 2001 album, SouljackerJohn Parish serves as producer for the band. Extreme Witchcraft recognizes Kinetic Energy which is widely considered the best of the bunch and decides to revise it for the better. In a stellar ode to turn-of-the-century rock, there’s a poignant combination of classic rock sounds with more contemporary influences. While Eels are known for their consistent sound, the brilliance of the production elevates them. It is a phenomenal piece of music and showcases the importance of this branch of the genre.
“Amateur Hour” begins immediately with an energetic composition. From its loud guitar riffs and belt notes, there is a distinct characterization of the album’s vision. Although it is one of the shortest tracks on the album, the production is succinct. It doesn’t feel abrupt, pacing itself perfectly for the rest of Extreme Witchcraft. In a way, he connects their traditional sounds to the signature production of Souljacker.
“Steam Engine,” which has an almost theatrical quality, is particularly noteworthy in terms of production. With mechanical instrumentals and powerful drums, the artists sonically create their titular subject. The vocal performance growls in a characteristic 1970s howl rather than the more contemporary performances seen in the opening track. The quality of the song really shines as a highlight.
There are more psych-rock influences with the single “Good Night on Earth”, which has a traditional bass line underlying the more experimental guitar and drum work. The pauses between the chorus and the verses are particularly poignant. With such complex compositions, they almost act as a breath of fresh air for the song. There is a give-and-take relationship, and as the title of the album suggests, a certain “alchemy” between them.
“Better Living Through Desperation” carries a chaotic edge that really hammers home just how talented Eels is at crafting his instrumentals. Almost more important than the vocals themselves, these long breaks are powerfully crafted and elevate the album. Plus, the key change in this track creates a certain exciting quality, with airtight recording production to match. There’s a certain artistry to the way each track comes together on this album.
The closer track “I Know You’re Right” leaves listeners on a more groove-rock note. This track has a pop quality that evokes the earlier sounds of the album compared to tracks such as “Stumbling Bee” or “What It Isn’t”. The instrumentals are stronger than ever, as they feel effortless in the brilliant glow of this work. Over all, Extreme Witchcraft illustrates the true magic of musical creation. After fourteen albums, Eels knows what makes the group vibrate. Fans will certainly welcome this album with open arms.