Witchery - In His Infernal Majesty's ServiceFor a quality so inextricably linked with metal, at times heaviness can be a difficult characteristic to define. For some it’s all about sheer volume and noise, whereas for others, myself included, attitude and the weight of feeling behind the music are key components. Every now and then, however, a record will come along dripping with such malice and vitriol that it nullifies any need for a debate on the matter entirely. Where In His Infernal Majesty’s Service is concerned — the latest offering from Swedish blackened thrash metallers Witchery — such a description could not be more apt. Put simply, this record is heavy as fuck.

Since their inception in 1997, Witchery have released five studio albums and an EP, and although I’ve always found their music perfectly serviceable, nothing they’ve done before has ever really blown my socks off. While I was mildly curious to give their new album a spin, I had my expectations held firmly in check. In the end, such caution proved unnecessary, however, as they’ve finally found their X factor; In His Infernal Majesty’s Service is an absolute beast of a record.

Since the release of their last studio album — 2010’s Witchkrieg — Witchery have undergone a few lineup changes, getting through two vocalists and seeing longtime drummer Martin Axenrot (also of Opeth and Bloodbath) leave to concentrate on other projects. After a brief five-year stint on vocal duties, medical issues forced former Dark Funeral frontman Emperor Magus Caligula to part ways with the band, with Nekrokraft frontman Angus Norder drafted in as his replacement.

One of the issues I’ve always had with Witchery is that, for me at least the vocals just never quite hit the spot. I always found them to be lacking the gusto necessary to compliment the band’s high-energy, at times almost rocky style. The recruitment of Norder was a masterstroke then, as his raspy cackles sound terrific, giving the entire record a wild, unhinged quality that is as malevolent as it is infectious. Ferocious openers “Lavey-athan” and “Zoroast” are just two of the most solid examples of his work on the album, however, his performance is consistent from start to finish. While in the case of some records metal vocals can feel like a bit of an afterthought, IHIMS would be much poorer indeed without his contributions.

Witchery 2016
Long-serving guitarists Richard Corpse and The Haunted’s Patrick Jensen, along with bassist Sharlee D’Angelo — also of Arch Enemy and formerly Mercyful Fate — put in a resoundingly solid performance from the first track to the last. Whether playing in the rapid-fire mode of “Netherworld Emperor” or with the kind of thrashy groove showcased in “Feed the Gun” and “In Warm Blood,” they craft riff after crushing riff, sounding indubitably violent while still managing to retain an energetic, almost danceable quality throughout. While it must be said that there are perhaps a couple of tracks that aren’t quite as strong as the rest of the field, at no point does IHIMS become stale or uninteresting. When the solid instrumentation and gleefully wicked vocals are coupled with production that has oodles of crunch, however, everything combines to create a record that sounds heavier than the sun, without at any point losing its distinctive character or descending into an all-out wall of noise.

While I always try my best not to pre-judge what a record is going to sound like prior to firing it up for the first time, I freely admit that I wasn’t expecting greatness here. I figured that if the band hadn’t released anything that really took my fancy in almost two decades of trying then, realistically speaking, this probably wasn’t going to change anytime soon. How wrong I was. With a freshly rejuvenated lineup, Witchery have written and executed an absolute monster of a record that is as subtle as a shovel to the face and absolutely bags of fun for it. Almost 20 years in the making, In His Infernal Majesty’s Service is proof that good things can and do come to those who wait. Or stumble across them by accident while writing for a metal review website.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR:| Format Reviewed: 192 kbps
Label: Century Media Records
Website: facebook.com/officialwitchery
Releases Worldwide: November 25th, 2016

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  • Goldicot

    Anybody else hate the cover art? It’s like a Parkway Drive hoodie.

    • I also hate it. It screams Monster energy gear.

    • Lord Lucan

      I’m intrigued as to what the skeletal hand is doing. Someone’s been listening to too much Steel Panther methinks.

      • Neglected

        It’s the trademark Ben Wrangle and his W-hail!

        • Lord Lucan

          Better known as ‘the shocker!’

    • Vega Magnus

      Or a pro wrestling t-shirt.

  • Jason

    I was listening to this on the way in to work this morning (thank you early shipping Century Media pre-order), and I felt let down by it. I’m a huge fan of the early material with Toxine on vocals, so this one wasn’t meeting expectations. I’ll continue to listen to it in the hopes that it’s a grower.

    • Lord Lucan

      No worries, this reviewing game is all subjective anyway so you’re entitled to disagree :)

      You’re still wrong though.

      • Jason

        That’s a possibility. Also, wouldn’t be the first time.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I agree. I miss Toxine.

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    The embedded track is a killer. I’m only familiar with “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, which never really impressed me. If the rest of the record is on par with this first track, it’s going to be a monster.

    • Lord Lucan

      I really enjoyed it. It’s not exactly what you’d call ‘thinking man’s metal’ but then it doesn’t try to be either. It’s just noisy and fun!

    • Gaëtan Baratin

      Cover of Blue Öyster Cult?

  • Hall Awaits

    Restless and Dead is an absolute classic in my books. I’ve thought the other albums were good but not great. Excited for this one!

  • Kill The King

    Nice!!!! Can’t wait for this! Any chance of a new Metallica review?

    • Maybe….

    • Bart the Repairman

      It was posted already, summed perfectly by Steel Doohm in one three-letter word.
      It wasn’t “fun” for sure.

    • Reese Burns

      Id give it 3/5. Nothing special, but it’s worth hearing at least once.

      • Berit Dogg

        Too generous. Not that I’ve heard the record.

        • SegaGenitals


  • Norfair Legend

    I absolutely love the embedded track but at the same time I’m not sure if this is something that would stay in regular rotation for me. Guess I’ll just let the song ruminate in my head for a few days and decide if it’s a purchase or not on Friday.

    • Lord Lucan

      If it sways you either way, I was surprised they released Nosferatu first. It’s a solid track but there’s stronger material on the album.

  • dead1

    This review is intriguing. I totally agree with the author’s assessment that Witchery never live up to the potential of their premise and would love to hear them do something good or excellent.

  • Wilhelm

    I was never sold 100% on this band, the embedded track is alright but I really don’t find anything special about it.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I always confuse these guys and Brujeria…

  • AndySynn

    I really like this one. But then I also really liked “Witchkrieg”.

    • Johan

      Same, in fact I think up until now Witchkrieg was their most cohesive album (despite some great individual tracks on previous albums). But IHIMS is probably gonna last longer in rotation than Witchkrieg for me.

  • Mark Z

    Can’t help but think – this album title would be perfect for a collection of HIM covers.

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    I’m a huge fan of The Haunted and I really like Patrik Jensen’s songwriting in general. Witchery has never grabbed me the way The Haunted did, but I’ve always enjoyed their music nonetheless. I’ll check out the new record once it’s on Spotify. I’m not crazy about “Nosferatu” though.

    • Reese Burns

      To be fair though, very few bands grab me the way The Haunted do.

      • Diego Molero

        Favorite album of The Haunted? I freaking love The Dead Eye. I know it’s not their best, but I just can’t get enough of it.

        • Reese Burns

          One Kill Wonder is a violent explosion of an album, and Exit Wounds is righteous thrash too

          • Diego Molero

            Exit Wounds is great. Haven’t spin One Kill Wonder in a while, gonna give it a go right now.

          • Reese Burns

            I highly recommend it, once you hear D.O.A., you’ll be hooked!

          • Shrümpelstiltskin

            Dolving > Aro, even though I like both vocalists. I actually like their debut the best.

  • SegaGenitals

    Trials meets Belphegor… is this the riff I am looking for?

  • lennymccall

    Wow I’m very surprised at how many in the comments don’t like Witchery.
    They’ve consistently put out powerhouse records IMO. Each one better than the last to my ear. I only just got Infernal Majesty this morning but it sounds perfectly kickass to me upon first listen. Gonna take a lot to best Witchkreig but the plus side is there’s two previously unreleased Legion sung songs on the CD version.

  • Bart the Repairman

    Speaking of “heavy as fuck” releases – This new Crowbar album is like a giant road roller. Incredible sound. Have you received the promo?

  • I love Sharlee, and I really love the volume increase he have on Witchery. Good review, looking forward this album!

  • Edward Rivera

    Don’t really care about the cover art because the album kicks ass although there is a song or two i don’t care for.