Thursday 23 November 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Witchery - "I Am Legion"

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 10/11/2017
Label: Century Media

What ‘I Am Legion’ boils down to is this: Witchery proves here that they’re a band still capable of greatness and creatively this is Witchery’s best album in sixteen years.

‘I Am Legion’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Legion
2. True North
3. Welcome, Night
4. Of Blackened Wing
5. Dry Bones
6. Amun-Ra
7. Seraphic Terror
8. A Faustian Deal
9. An Unexpected Guest
10. Great Northern Plague
11. The Alchemist
12. Ragnarök (Bonus Track)
13. Apex Ghoul (Bonus Track)

The Review:

It can be a challenge for fans and bands alike whenever a band ventures away from the sound that earned them their fan base. Not all fans are willing to make that journey with a band, and the new sound very rarely ever has the same meaning or impact as what came before. The Crown is an example where their later material suffered from their shift toward down-tuned death metal, all but leaving their speed metal leanings behind, and their musical charisma and personality disappeared with it. Over the years, Witchery’s albums fell at a similar trajectory to The Crown, though the changes they’ve made in style are less severe.

It’s easy to forget just how brief Witchery’s original peak really was. They released three top notch albums and an EP, all within a two-and-a-half year window: October 1998 to February 2001. Since then, their output has been a lot less frequent and less noteworthy. All of the albums following ‘Symphony For The Devil’ have been missing something to one degree or another as they’ve struggled to find their footing.

That brings us to ‘I Am Legion’ and while the Witchery of old and the Witchery of now may not have as much in common as long time fans might like, they’ve clearly put themselves back on solid ground again. The album proper begins with its lead single “True North”, a deliberately-paced stomper, with a chorus that would have fit in nicely amongst Bathory’s viking metal material. The song is also something of a red herring, though nicely paired with “Welcome, Night”, another mid-paced, rhythm-centric track.

After that point, Witchery shifts into higher gears. “Of Blackened Wing” is a smorgasbord of riffs and styles, ranging from it’s Sabbathian opening riff, into crossover thrash, and even a pinch of recent Darkthrone in the song’s second half. As the album carries on, there’s a healthy balance of thrashing fury and fist-pumping mid-tempo heft. ‘A Faustian Deal’ even flirts with Satyricon’s black n’ roll feel, though they find a way to make it fit within their own established stylistic framework. All of this variety definitely counts for something, but really it’s the inspired songwriting that carries this album, whatever the speed. Creatively, ‘I Am Legion” is Witchery’s best album in sixteen years.

What ‘I Am Legion’ boils down to is this: Witchery proves here that they’re a band still capable of greatness. Getting back up to this level hasn’t been quick or easy for the band, and it’s hard to tell what changed during the brief period between this album and last year’s ‘In His Infernal Majesty's Service’. Whatever it was, they need to find a way to bottle it and save it for anything they do going forward because this is exactly where they needed to be, and it didn’t require reliving old sounds to get here. Witchery is a great band again in 2017, and it’s a joy to be able to say it.

“I Am Legion” is available digitally here and on CD/LP here.

Band info: Facebook