Sweden’s’ resident occult-obsessed blackened thrashers Witchery is a long and storied one, and I Am Legion marks the seventh entry into the band’s catalogue.
Opening with the incredibly short scene-setter “Legion” (more on that one later), we are quickly thrown into the first full track of the album “True North” which features an intro from what sounds suspiciously like an electric organ. This is swiftly followed by a mid-paced, thrashy stomp and raspy vocals courtesy of Angus Norder (Nekrokraft) that have just the right amount of malice as well as some rather gurgled, yet very intelligible, roars of the title itself.
The tempo barely shifts at all before fourth track “Of Blackened Wing”, which features some welcome gear changes, moving between sections of blastbeats to downtempo dirges all within the same four minute span, perhaps the most varied track speedwise throughout all of I Am Legion. “Seraphic Terror” follows in similar vein, with the riffs being their own counterpoint to complement Norder’s roars before the blastbeats kick in and subsequent track “A Faustian Deal” reeks of Now, Diabolical-era Satyricon with its plodding tempo and melodic leanings.
Unfortunately all is not quite well within I Am Legion. The abrupt move from opener “Legion” to second track “True North” is incredibly jarring; it feels as if the band wrote the first minute of a song then gave up. Given that “Legion” is so short it makes little sense for it to be included at all when its follow-up offers a far better introduction to Witchery’s meat-and-potatoes blackened thrash. This, coupled with the fairly limited selection of tempos on offer - the band seem to be either paced at a middling stomp or a slightly quicker gallop with brief spurts of real speed - robs I Am Legion of the heft previous works have carried.
Witchery have been plugging away at their craft for the better part of two decades now; expecting any curveballs would be an exercise in futility at this point. I Am Legion doesn’t deviate from the template first crafted in 1997 and honed over the subsequent decades. What it lacks in creativity and variation it (mostly) makes up for in solid writing and convincing execution. Whilst Witchery haven’t truly gone off the rails in the last twenty years it seems more and more that they are content to simply phone in albums that hearken back, without making any real attempt to, recapture the glory days of old.
Highlights: True North, Of Blackened Wing, Seraphic Terror