Back in 2007, around the release of The Alchemist, not only had Witchcraft all but created an entire scene in their wake, but over the span of just three albums they’d proved how much they had matured since their early days as pure vintage Pentagram worshippers.
Still keeping both feet in the late 60s/early 70s period, they’d managed to incorporate various elements of prog, folk and psychedelic rock. So why they – or more specifically frontman Magnus Pelander – then chose to go on hiatus for five years before rearranging half of their lineup is everybody’s guess. But when Legend finally hit the stores, gone was their finesse, replaced by a harder and more in-your-face sound, as if they’d dumped their girlfriend with her worn-out Uriah Heep t-shirt in favour of her younger, nosering- and Down tattoo-sporting sister – a move that turned out to be quite popular nonetheless.
Three years and another complete overhaul of their roster later, Nucleus tries to get the best of both worlds, but try to please everybody and you’ll most likely fail. Opener Malstroem tries clumsily to encapsulate every aspect in eight minutes without much coherence. With a new rhythm section devoid of any true flair and no second guitarist to back him up (his lead axeman until 2012 John Hoyles is cruelly missed), Magnus sounds on autopilot whenever things get doomy. But when he allows himself to recapture his early garage vibe without much aforethought, he nails it in less than two-and-a-half minutes on Theory Of Consequence.
The album’s two epics – the title track and Breakdown, respectively 14 and nearly 16 minutes long – perfectly embody that duality as the former functions perfectly, while the latter goes nowhere, bogged down in its second half by the most pedestrian sludge riff ever. Nucleus isn’t so much an identity crisis as a case of a veteran band with a great and distinctive sound, but unsure of where to go next.