REVIEW: WITCHERY – “In His Infernal Majesty’s Service”
Supergroups, supergroups everywhere. Usually, when a lot of guys from different known and/or respected bands team up to make music, the result is not as good as their main groups. It’s hard to keep comparisons at bay, especially when the sound portrayed is so similar to what we are used to hearing from the individual members. There are times, though, when the chemistry far surpasses the accepted minimum and turns this new ‘project’ into something big. With Witchery, of course, I’m referring to the latter, as their rendition of blackened thrash metal is nothing short of awesome. With former and current members of acts like Arch Enemy, Mercyful Fate, Satanic Slaughter and The Haunted, these guys don’t need me to introduce them; but for those who don’t know, the band was formed in 1997 by Sharlee D’Angelo (bass), Richard Corpse and Patrik Jensen (guitars). And every now and then, they like to release a little monster into the wild.
I’ve been into the band for a good 10 years now, and I always found it too bad that they are neglected in favor of Patrick Jensen’s main act The Haunted. It’s been six years since their last output ‘Witchkrieg’ – an album that featured former Marduk frontman Legion – which received mixed feelings from fans and media but was somewhat accepted by all as a good effort. ‘In His Infernal Majesty’s Service’ has a few changes in the lineup with Angus Norder (Nekokraft) and Christofer Barkensjö (Lill, ex-Kaamos) taking over the vocals and drums, respectively, but the effort pretty much continues where its predecessor left of.
There are 13 songs summing up less than 45 minutes of fist-pumping, fast-paced thrash with rapid-fire style, great hooks and and evil atmosphere. None of the songs clock over four minutes, making the experience frantic and visceral. I give special attention to the middle-portion of the album, especially to the songs “Nosferatu” and “The Burning of Salem”. Curiously enough, these two are very similar to Sodom’s characteristic style, with Angus’ voice even resembling Tom Angelripper’s harsh vocals on the former. There are also some groovier (sort of melodic, even) tracks such as “Zoroast” and “Feed the Gun” that mix things up a bit, injecting a dose of unpretentiousness to the album.
Dark and somber elements like organs in “Escape From Dunwich Valley” are also added to the experience in order to create the blackest atmosphere possible. “Oath Breaker” on the other hand receives a death-like treatment with double-drumming and a cool distorted guitar passage. Cadenced bits are also present in “Eye for an Eye”, which actually doesn’t fit well with the rest of the up-tempo tunes in this album. The over-production and the absence of more solos are two downsides to the play; this rendition of thrash metal doesn’t require overdone production work, and at times, the experience feels sort of mechanical and overly modern.
When Witchery plays straight-up blackened thrash, it’s where ‘In His Infernal Majesty’s Service’ is at its best; pure riffing, guttural and aggressive vocals, and hellish war drums blow the crap out of your speakers and show all these neo-thrash kids out there how it should be done. However, when there’s a little bit of experimentation, the album loses a little bit of steam and falls in an uncomfortably common place (ironic, isn’t it?) for the genre. Overall, this is a very solid album and well worthy of the Witchery name. Thrash and even black metal fans will feast on its sound and its very approachable short songs. What we have here is neither masterpiece, nor failure; just a good and fun display of powerful Swedish metal done right. Recommended.