Witchery - I Am Legion

Witchery I Am Legion cover
I Am Legion
Century Media Records
Only recently have I discovered Sweden’s Witchery and its fiery, unapologetic brand of occult-laden black thrash, thanks to a well-read heavy metal correspondent who strongly urged me to check out its highly memorable “Restless Dead”, as well as “Dead, Hot and Ready” albums (rest assured this last is more than just a necrophiliac’s sick fantasy!). Suffice to say their incredibly explosive instrumentation and antagonistic appeal not only made me want to recklessly break every chair in the house, but also eagerly plow headfirst through its considerable discography. Then, all of a sudden, the Linköping natives turned around and released full-length number eight, “I Am Legion”, under Century Media Records faster than I could scream “Beetlejuice!”. Hence, I’m compelled to get with the program and give it a whirl prior to indulging in past forays.
I won’t detail past releases, but insofar as “I Am Legion” goes, it should toll a bell with those familiar with Carcass and fellow countrymen Entombed as the begrimed, croaking vocals bring to mind the British death metal/ grindcore band’s early fare, namely the forensic medical jargon strewn “Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious” (lovely!), whilst the maniacally catapulting drumming for the most part smacks of the latter’s “death n’ roll” style for which it’s notorious. That said, I’m not quite as riveted with the material at hand as I was when I first heard the first two albums – on those it felt the band made the most of every minute and bar whilst the songs here are more or less lumped together, like mashed potatoes if you will. I think a few should have been eschewed completely in order for the stronger, more poignant ones to shine. Firstly, the opener, “Legion” is a total hindrance as it abruptly stops a minute or so in… I don’t know if this was done on purpose or not but it’s definitely irksome.
Effectively, “True North” should have started things off as it’s the more evocative and pleasantly innovative track. To wit, my first – and unchanged – impression of the eerie inceptive sequence is of the super chilling final scene from the first Saw movie, when the guy on the floor with his head seemingly blown away (Tobie Hooper himself) creepily stands up as the “hero”/victim ghastly realizes the whole macabre ordeal was simply a play. Soon, the song picks up in cadence, in other words a lugubrious and punchy swing unwholesomely rounded off by Angus Norder’s greasy growls. Let’s not forget to mention the stoic and restrained drum fills which, half-way through the track militantly coast back after a sordid un-silence before the un-holy graveyard grinding hip-shaker of a guitar riff returns with said scary harmony in tow. Indeed, this track has made quite an impression on me – consider it the album’s top highlight.
While early Witchery fare was swamped with hair-raising melody and brawn, half this affair is solely comprised of raw pummeling which tends to wear one’s ears out. Certain individual tracks are fun to listen to but as a whole “I Am Legion” quickly turns tedious and in the end unceremoniously fails to match the engaging albeit lambasting grandeur of its halcyon days, the late 1990s to be precise. I can’t comment on the digipak’s two extra cuts, “Ragnarok” and “Apex Ghoul” (cool title!) bonus tracks, as the version sent to me features only the original eleven; either way, it would have been propitious to omit a couple of the middle tracks (“Amon-Ra” and “Seraphic Terror” for instance, as all they evoke is a monopoly on anger), as well as “Legion” in order to give more impetus to humdingers such as the haunting, eerily creaking “Welcome, Night”, the psychotic “Of Blackened Wing” (nut), as well as the nefariously waltzing and melodious “A Faustian Deal”.
The individual band mates are certainly not to blame for said pitfalls; team Jenson and Rimfält’s guitar tones are as stout as ever whilst the solos contained herein sound loony and tormented as usual. Chris Barkensjö’s drumming and heavy metal highwayman Sharlee D’angelo’s bass thwack and resonate with usual ardor and possessed grace, especially on “An Unexpected Guest”.
In summary, I’ll relay the torch passed on to me by my friend and triple duly recommend fellow Witchery tenderfoots – regardless of their preferred metal genres – to make a mad grab on the aforementioned early releases as they’re something else altogether. Even if you’re more of a traditional/doom metal purist such as I, you’ll likely revel in the grippingly great kick-ass guitar riffs/solos and fulminating rhythms. In the meantime do check out (below) the awesome IMAX style YouTube video for “True North”, as well as the aforementioned highlights. Although, I’m not exactly brushing them off with a feather duster, as far as “I Am Legion” is concerned it’s safe to say the chairs in my immediate surroundings won’t be catching air anytime soon.