Standing out from the sea of death metal bands that helped shaped the genre in Sweden in the 90s, Linköping’s WITCHERY offered a traditional, thrash orientated sound in their early years. Though their formative years with quite active with three albums and an EP between 1998 and 2001, as the schedules of Patrik Jensen and Sharlee D’Angelo began to grow more hectic with THE HAUNTED and ARCH ENEMY, respectively, WITCHERY entered a long-lasting period of infrequent activity, releasing only three albums in a further 15 years. However, with 2016’s In His Infernal Majesty’s Service, WITCHERY returned with a new line-up, a new sound and a new-found productivity. Just 350 days after the release of In His Infernal Majesty’s Service, the Swedish thrashers bring their newest slice of blackened thrash to the world, the stunning I Am Legion.
It was a six-year wait for WITCHERY fans after their 2010 album, Witchkrieg, before In His Infernal Majesty’s Service dropped. For such a quick turn around for I Am Legion, there was a worry that it was perhaps a bit rushed. However, it barely takes a full listen of this record for that concern to be quashed – it is immediately clear from the offset that I Am Legion carries some of the most inspired song writing and well executed musicianship in WITCHERY‘s discography.
Opening with a short intro track, Legion, Witchery showcases a small section of brilliant thrash instrumentals with a subtle, blackened undertone that abruptly ends as synths begin lead single True North. While this abrupt change does work well, it would have been interesting to see what would have become of Legion if it had flourished into a full track, rather than just an intro. True North was the first taste the world got of I Am Legion, released back in August – and there is no doubt, it is an absolute monster of a song. A bewitching, organ-like synth opens the track, and leads into a punchy, blackened groove and the simplistic but effective chanting chorus. Complete with a bluesy, blinding solo, True North is one of the strongest tracks to feature on I Am Legion.
On Blackened Wing, the second single to be released from the record, opens with a heavy, infectious riff that builds into an up-tempo, aural assault that relents only slightly for a surprisingly catchy chorus. Though the first half of I Am Legion is strong to say the least, it is the second half where WITCHERY showcase an unparalleled excellence. Seraphic Terror brings a serious intensity and unrelenting speed to the forefront, offering no respite and forcing energy levels through the roof, while A Faustian Deal offers a more polished, melodic sound to contrast the feral aggression displayed previously. Closing the album, short interlude Great Northern Plague leads into The Alchemist – the longest track on I Am Legion, The Alchemist blisters through three minutes of unrestrained savagery before a moment of silence, then back-masking a small section of the track for the final moments of the record.
I Am Legion takes the stylistic changes from WITCHERY‘s 2016 album In His Infernal Majesty’s Service and refines them, pushing the black metal influence further and delving into a far more raw, organic and interesting sound. The passion from each of the musicians oozes through the music and infests itself within the listeners ears, and frankly, it’s infectious. Perfectly imperfect, I Am Legion is a natural sounding album, dark from start to finish and arguably the best record to carry the WITCHERY name.
I Am Legion is out now via Century Media Records.
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