Legion - War Beast - (7/10)
Published on January 2, 2017
Legion are a New Jersey heavy metal outfit that after a decade of silence have released their second full-length album, War Beast. Legion’s effort here is a substantial one. They aren’t just some old guys playing around in the studio and throwing together some songs. They are serious about their craft, and the composition of this album completely reflects that. Their sound is impeccable. The songs are engaging. At their best, they sound like the mutant love child of Destructor and Axehammer, with a vocalist composed of equal portions of heavy metal thunder and general unpredictability.
As one of the more recent bands that are unabashedly trying to recapture the old days, they certainly do it well. They have a style that is fairly unique; I wasn’t able to find any parts that were clearly derivative of any specific band. But taken as a whole, their style stilly gives you that crusty old-school feeling. It’s a thick and meaty slice of the eighties, delivered raw and fresh.
The album has one glaring flaw though, and that is the aforementioned vocalist. He obviously has all the requisite talent to be an excellent heavy metal singer. I say this because you can’t pull off the high-register vibrato acrobatics that he does without having a pristinely-developed set of pipes. The problem is that whether or not he’s actually going to hit the notes properly is something that you find yourself asking frequently throughout this album. And believe me, when he’s on, it’s nothing short of incredible. But when he’s off, it’s really tough to get through. And there are some places where he might actually hit the correct note, but the tone is so shrill that it ruins the experience.
The good thing is that he still has his solid points, and when he does, the chemistry of the band is phenomenal. Case in point: “The Bricks of Egypt”. This song was my favourite when I first listened to the album, and it’s still right there at the top after having gone through the whole album several times. The first thing I imagine that most people would notice about this particular track is its slow, enchanting “Kashmir”-like riff that opens it up. And as cool as this is, along with the quaint middle-eastern flute stuff, it’s really overshadowed by the power of the band firing together on all eight cylinders throughout the remainder of the song. So if you want to get a taste for Legion’s potential, check out that track at the very least.
I would really love it if this entire album were to be re-recorded with new vocal tracks. Seriously, the music is that good. But as it stands, with the unpredictable vocals, I really can’t get behind a lot of it. And that’s sad, because there’s just so much to love here.