Witchery’s latest offering, I am Legion, which comes hot on the heels of 2016’s In his Infernal Majesty’s Service, draws from a wide array of influences – which could be seen as a positive, but also seems to have led to the album not being able to find a settled, cohesive sound. Yet at the same time, it suffers from a syndrome that Dave Mustaine observed, which is the tendency for Metal to become repetitive. While many bands find ways around this, I am Legion struggles to vary the tone within its songs.
The album begins with ‘Legion,’ immediately signalling a strong Slayer influence. While the cymbals are overdone, something that’s apparent on several of the tracks, Chris Barkensjö nevertheless brings some cool drum fills.
‘True North’ builds the anticipation of its entry with a synthy intro before drawing in some slower guitars that have a bit of a Southern groove. Not a bad place to start the album, and it’s unfortunate this vibe wasn’t carried further. It’s something like Danzig with a shot of Cradle of Filth spookiness. Already however, Patrik Jensen and Richard Rimfält’s guitars are riff-focused to the point of repetitiveness, despite the fact that most of the songs on the album barely clock four minutes.
‘Welcome, Night’ steps things up a notch, feeling like classic, overtly creepy Opeth of the Still Life era. The vibe is cold and dirty, but the music is unfortunately still repetitive overall. The exception is an interesting solo that continues to carry the Opeth vibe. The track is very much derailed however by the intrusion of a spoken, “Welcome Mr Night, we’ve been expecting you,” which is very odd and breaks the experience of the song with its hokey, James Bond feel.
‘Of Blackened Wing’ starts out slow and lumbering, with the drums once again overly cymbal-heavy. This time the riffs seem to be Black Sabbath-inspired, though they pick up into the frenetic stylings that many Black Metal bands pursued in their early days. To their credit, the band do fill out a little more atmosphere than those early 90s kvlt offerings.
The pace changes dramatically with the fast and lively ‘Dry Bones.’ There are some interesting guitars happening in the style of Dimmu Borgir, with an overall riff structure somewhat like Rotting Christ. Alongside ‘Faustian Deal,’ this is one of the most interesting and varied tracks on the album, with some pretty cool stuff going on in the solos.
The speed is maintained with ‘Amun-Ra,’ perhaps the most in your face track on the album, and one that fittingly carries a distant Arabian feel, along with further shades of Opeth. This track is home to some of the most impressive solos on the album, certainly making it worthwhile.
‘Seraphic Terror’ is aptly named, as the intense guitars and unrelentingly heavy drums effectively capture the metaphysical terror of the eponymous Seraphim. The track moves along well, and is arguably the heaviest on the album.
The strongest track however is ‘A Faustian Deal,’ an undoubtedly Black track, but one with real groove. ‘A Faustian Deal’ seems to be the best example of Witchery’s individual style on I am Legion, and it would have been a much more convincing album with more tracks like it, with excellent soloing leading into some truly unsettling moments of melancholy. Unfortunately it’s downhill from here, as ‘An Unexpected Guest’ reintroduces the very Thrash side of the album, which is not its strength, despite the track having its moments in the choruses and solo.
‘Great Northern Plague’ is a creepy interlude evocative of a harsh, Dark Ages landscape, perhaps housing a monastery. The martial drumbeat enters to bring to mind a great, marauding army intruding on the scene as the music slowly grows heavier with the entrance of the guitars. This leads into ‘The Alchemist,’ a frenetic, fast-paced Black Metal track. ‘The Alchemist’ is however fairly uninspiring, and almost comes across as an attempt to portray the “typical” song of this album. The solo however is somewhat redeeming as it plays out over Barkensjö’s very heavy drums.
There are definitely some elements to like about this album, but with a release already out just last year, perhaps Witchery simply didn’t take long enough to refine this album. It certainly doesn’t compare to Jensen’s other offering for this year with The Haunted, which far exceeded expectations. The standout tracks are certainly worth investigating, but overall the album is not likely to become a classic.