Some years ago, Heineken ran a TV ad here in the UK which involved a woman running down a staircase with potatoes falling out of her blouse. I can’t remember precisely how it related to beer, but the message was something to do with taking things slowly, and this is advice I believe all musicians should heed closely. I like a gap of a few years between albums; I find it reassuring. Anything sub-24 months and I begin to get twitchy. This is probably wholly unreasonable, and I’m sure the AMG readership can think of a litany of absolute turnips that took years to write and record, but I simply can’t help it. I was a little put out, therefore, to discover that Witchery were planning to unbox their latest work, I Am Legion, a paltry 350 days on from the release of their crushing 2016 effort, In His Infernal Majesty’s Service. Fighting the urge to dismiss it as a rush job, and being the consummate professional that I am (hashtag sarcasm), I was nonetheless determined to set my reservations aside and give it a fair crack of the whip.

As someone with practically every twist and turn of In His Infernal Majesty’s Service seared into the front of my brain, the first thing that struck me about I Am Legion is how much rawer it sounds, both in execution and production. Witchery have traded in the grooves that came to characterize their last effort in exchange for another one-way ticket on the blackened thrash train, with spiky, abrasive riffs and spittle-flecked bile firmly the order of the day. Frantic, rapid-fire affairs like “Seraphic Terror” and “Amun-Ra” have Exodus and Slayer written all over them—the latter even featuring a feverishly Hanneman-esque solo a third of the way from the end—while mid-tempo musings such as “True North” and “A Faustian Deal” invite the listener to headbang themselves straight into the emergency room. It may be more stripped back than its predecessor, but I Am Legion is as uncompromising as ever.

While its thrash influences are on show for all to see, the record’s black metal elements are somewhat more understated, but no less effective for it. For the most part, they are expressed through a savvy selection of chord choices, and what this approach lacks in complexity, it makes up for by sounding genuinely fucking sinister, as well as injecting each track with a heavy dose of distinctive Witchery character. Despite all of this, however, I can’t escape the nagging sensation that I Am Legion just lacks the X-factor that made its predecessor so gleefully satisfying. While most of the tracks are perfectly enjoyable in their immediacy, there’s nothing particularly catchy about any of them. I’ve never bought into the argument that heaviness and catchiness can’t go hand in hand either; In His Infernal Majesty’s Service may have felt like being bludgeoned over the head with a mace, but it was still worming its way around my brain days after my maiden listen. On a personal level, I Am Legion simply does not generate the same kind of impact.

Another annoyance I feel compelled to draw attention to is the amount of filler utilized as well, be it in the form of introductory noodling, à la opener “Legion” and “Great Northern Plague,” or more drawn out affairs that never really get going, such as “Welcome, Night.” Now, for the record, I don’t object to subtlety or atmosphere-building in the slightest, but when one combines all of these segments together, as well as the dead space at the end of closer “The Alchemist,” it adds up to over eight full minutes, which is almost a quarter of the album’s total runtime. This sucks a great deal of momentum out of what is clearly intended to be a full-on, visceral experience, and while it is by no means a total deal breaker, it is an irritation that I find impossible to ignore.

I Am Legion is far from terrible, but while there are scattered glimmers of promise here and there, such moments are never fully capable of masking the album’s shortcomings. Fans of Witchery’s earlier material will likely approve of the band’s decision to revert back to a more classic sound, but as someone who genuinely loved In His Infernal Majesty’s Service, I can’t help but feel that I Am Legion represents a step backwards for a band that previously had an absolute stack of momentum behind them.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Website: Facebook
Releases Worldwide: November 10th, 2017

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  • Great review as always, but this is such a disappointment. I used to love these guys in the early 00s and Ive been clamouring for them to re-gain Witchery’s level of Badass-ery, but they haven’t.


    It’s no Chinese Democracy.

    • Brutalist_Receptacle

      it’s not even Chinese Organ Harvesters

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Underrated for sure.

    • SoLeftISeeRight

      Nor a Chinese Arithmetic

  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    “You just solved that Rubik’s cube is 4.5 seconds!”

  • Simbod

    I also was disappointed after I listened to it once, but after several runs, it suddenly grew on me a lot. I think the second, thrashier half of the album is on a par with last year’s “In His Infernal Majesty’s Service”, while the first half with all its midtempo is a little tedious in some parts. I still think IHIMS is the superior record, still I must say I would have rated “I Am Legion” much higher than just 2.5. Maybe something between 3.5 and 4.0 (while IHIMS was a 4.0-4.5 for me).

    • Lord Lucan

      I never picked up on the Satyricon vibe but now you mention it I hear what you mean. Good shout! Glad you’re enjoying it anyway.

    • Tofu muncher

      I like the thrash element (always prefer thrash metal to BM, rly). A good 3.0/5.0 this is.

  • aelena74

    Blackened WIng, the low cost meh-tal airline

    • Nukenado

      I prefer Flying Snails or High Spirits, honestly. Flying Snails have an in-flight garden and High Spirits has free hugs.

      I’ve heared that Witchery Cong. have a high-cost option available though. Samething called His Infernal Majesty’s Service or some shit.

  • Jake

    After 3 listens so far, I’d say that I agree with the score given, but have a different take on the reasons for that score. The main problem with this album is that it is a by the numbers blackened thrash album.
    Witchery had a distinctive and enjoyable sound on their first two albums. They combined thrashy, speedy passages that reminded of Slayer and early 80s speed metal, with some more melodies and grooves reminiscent of Mercyful Fate. For me, the band hit its peak on Dead, Hot, and Ready.
    With the Symphony for the Devil album, the band began a run of albums that contain technically enjoyable songs, lack the originality and distinctive Witchery sound. When Symphony or Don’t Fear the Reaper are playing I feel I could be listening to any number of blackened thrash bands. It just doesn’t stand out.
    With the next couple of releases Witchery somewhat reinvented themselves as a much heavier band and then added in some of the “old school” tendencies that helped make their first two albums so enjoyable. In His Majesty’s Infernal Service was a memorable and enjoyable album in part because once again the band stands apart from the pack.
    The problem with I am Legion is that the band has lost their sense of identity once again. None of these songs is particularly bad or unenjoyable, but I feel like I could be listening to any thrashing, barked vocals band. I hope with another few listens that I’ll magically discover some intricateness or particularly riffs amidst these songs, but realistically I find that doubtful. I’m in the midst of my fourth listen as I type this. By this point in time with Infernal Majesty, a number of songs had really stood out and made me want to listen to them repeatedly. By this point with Dead Hot and Ready, I realized I had a new favorite. This album will not likely ever reach that point.

    • Lord Lucan

      Thanks for the feedback; I really like your analysis. I probably wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s totally generic blackened thrash; if I heard it with absolutely no additional information I reckon I could still identify it as Witchery. I think the ‘by numbers’ observation is spot on though, albeit as more of a ‘by numbers’ Witchery album. IHIMS had a character all of its own, whereas this feels bland. If they’d taken the tweaks to their style they made on their last record and built on them, I reckon it could have been a lot more entertaining then it ultimately turned out to be.

  • Metrognome26

    I’ve only got a couple of listens in so far since I bought it this morning, so I can’t really say for sure how I’d score it. I do prefer it to In His Infernal Majesty’s Service, though. I Am Legion feels a little more raw, and I could swear it has a little bit more speed and aggression to it and that’s ultimately what I come to Witchery to receive. Regardless, I’m just fucking glad that Witchery are back!

    • Lord Lucan

      I would have liked the songwriting to be more interesting but I think the rawness is a plus (is rawness even a word? Screw it, it is now). ‘Organic’ has become a bit of a cliché when describing production, but I think if they’re intending to shift their emphasis back to the thrash side of things then such an approach is definitely the way to go.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Chuck Mosley RIP

  • Blut Aus Jord

    This album is lacking the punch of the last one. Every song on that thing had something redeemable about it. Ended the year in my top 5. This one just sounds rushed and there’s to much filler. Shame.

  • Rolderathis

    Witchery, weakening, see the 2.5s gathering.

    • Treble Yell

      This comment deserves more love.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    I miss Toxine.

  • Jensen is a riff machine, but even those last couple of thrash riffs couldn’t save the first three minutes of mid-paced tedium. Guess I’ll be sticking with the first two Witchery albums. :(

  • Here’s Johnny

    Hmm weird one this as i find it to be better than IHIMS, which was just meh to me(think i listened to it only once). The vocals are an improvement too.

  • Tofu muncher

    The guy at the front looks like he just finished ransacking the attic looking for his pirate costume. Heh.