Witchery – I Am Legion – Album Review

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Artist: Witchery

Album Title: I Am Legion

Label: Century Media Records

Date Of Release: 10 November 2017

Witchery are a band that I have always kept an eye on, even if I have always fallen short to declaring myself a fully-fledged fan. After numerous line-up changes, the band all but disappeared from view after the release of their fifth full-length ‘Witchkrieg’ in 2010. However, spurred on by the impending 20-year anniversary of their inception, a six-year hiatus finally ended in 2016 with the release of ‘In His Infernal Majesty’s Service’. It was a record very well-received by critics and fans alike, so much so that the band realised that they needed to keep up the momentum that had been lost. So, just a year or so later, Witchery return with album number seven, ‘I Am Legion’.

The first thing to note about ‘I Am Legion’, is the cover artwork that adorns this record. Created by the Swede’s long term artist-in-crime Andreas ‘Diaz’ Pettersson, it is clever, striking and rather dark in tone – the perfect imagery for an album full of music that could easily be described in similar fashion.

Then there’s the Witchery line-up for ‘I Am Legion’. Never ones for favouring stability in their ranks, it comes as a slight surprise to note that the clientele on this record is identical to that of its predecessor. As such, Witchery 2017 consists of vocalist Angus Norder, guitarist Jensen, lead guitarist Rikard Rimfält, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo and drummer Chris Barkensjö. In addition, the usual suspects are joined by a few notable, if brief, guest appearances from drummer Nick Barker (Lock Up, ex-Cradle of Filth), Hank Shermann (Mercyful Fate) and Mike Wead (King Diamond).

Familiarity appears to be the watchword for Witchery this time around because in addition to the line-up, ‘I Am Legion’ was recorded at Dug Out Studio, the same venue as ‘In His Infernal Majesty’s Service’. It also features the same producer in the form of Daniel Bergstrand.

As the saying goes, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. But in the case of Witchery, familiarity has bred a malevolent and sadistic offspring. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a very good thing indeed.

From the outset, and the opening minute-long intro, it is clear that ‘I Am Legion’ is all about the riffs. The groove and the power that the mid-tempo instrumental possesses is superb, channelling their inner Slayer but delivering something that really nicely sets the tone for what is to follow.

With the introduction of the first single, ‘True North’, it also becomes evident that the intro was no fluke or false dawn. Once the haunting and dark synth-driven opening recedes, the track is all about the riffs, the groove and an uncompromising intent that is so infectious and entertaining. The keys maintain a level of atmosphere that is welcome, but it plays second fiddle to the guitars of Jensen and Rimfält, both of whom deliver some slick and incisive material, all the while backed up by an eager and energetic rhythm section of D’Angelo and Barkensjö. And even in the darkness, there is space for some understated melody, as the latter stages demonstrates, led by a memorable guitar line and then capped by a brief but noteworthy lead guitar solo.

Comprised of eleven tracks, the remaining nine compositions follow a broadly similar path, where the pace cleverly moves between a groovy mid-tempo and a more urgent, higher speed. But either way, the riffs come thick and fast and my neck quickly becomes sore in the process.

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‘Of Blackened Wing’ is the perfect example of what I’m talking about. It stomps like an enraged grizzly bear at the outset and at various points throughout the song. Interspersed within the groove is material much faster, albeit equally intense in a different way. When it arrives, the punk-infused thrash is the direct result of the accelerator pedal being depressed and thanks to the stark inter-song contrast, it makes a much more powerful impact.

By contrast, ‘Dry Bones’ never fails to conjure up comparisons to ‘Blizzard Beasts’-era Immortal thanks largely to the frosty staccato riffing that dominates the verses, not to mention Norder’s caustic and thoroughly vicious vocal tones that tower above the music imperiously and sadistically.

‘Amen-Ra’ is a thunderous blackened thrash work-out, the sound of Witchery in full-on attack mode. The drumming pummels, the riffs are razor-sharp and clinical, and the solos are swirling maelstroms of glorious sound within the uncompromising composition. There’s even the briefest of sojourns into all-out death metal territory for good measure. In spite of this, the intent shown in the opening moments of immediate follow-up ‘Seraphic Terror’ do very little to dial down the savagery or the pace. In fact, if anything, it might be marginally faster. For my money though, it is a touch more immediate, courtesy of a touch more understated and dark melody, not to mention a brief foray back into massive groove territory in the latter stages.

The use of understated, heavily-cloaked melody makes a return within the utterly superb ‘An Unexpected Guest’, another personal favourite among many on ‘I Am Legion’. I’m a sucker for atmospherics and a sense of theatrics, so even the sub-two-minute instrumental ‘Great Northern Plague’, complete with tolling bell and cinematic overtones receives a favourable reception. It then falls to ‘The Alchemist’ to bring the album to a close and does so in fairly spectacular fashion, in a flurry of blastbeats, precise riffs, blistering solos and uncompromising attitude, led as always by the snarling diatribes of Angus Norder.

The only problem for ‘I Am Legion’ is that it has arrived late in the year and as such, may not make many people’s end-of-year ‘best of’ lists as a result. The truth is though, that it really should. I can’t recall a time when I have enjoyed a Witchery album quite this much. I liked ‘In His Infernal Majesty’s Service’ but without doubt, for my personal tastes, ‘I Am Legion’ is better. In fact, it is, without doubt, the best Witchery album of the band’s career and a cracking slice of blackened thrash metal.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Cloak – To Venomous Depths
Elvenking – Secrets of the Magick Grimoire
Moonspell – 1755
Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black
Communic – Where Echoes Gather
Impureza – La Caida De Tonatiuh
Auđn – Farvegir Fyrndar
Beast In Black – Berserker
Serenity – Lionheart
Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King
Daydream XI – The Circus of the Tattered and Torn
CyHra – Letters To Myself
Devoid – Cup of Tears
Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
Sons Of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony
Enslaved – E
Samael – Hegemony
Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Power Quest – Sixth Dimension
Iris Divine – The Static And The Noise
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

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