Review Summary: Angel Witch prove that there is life in the old dog yet, although it may not have learnt many new tricks.
The history of returning NWOBHM heroes Angel Witch is one that is rather fraught with misfortune. Issues such as mismanagement and an ever unstable line-up, amongst others, meant that the band never really reached the lofty heights of popularity that many, such as their ever overshadowing peers Iron Maiden, managed to. Despite this, the strength of their early output, especially their classic, self titled debut, still sees them regarded as much admirable veterans in many circles.
And so, with their first new studio release in fourteen years, Angel Witch prove that there is life in the old dog yet, although it may not have learnt many new tricks. With a mixture of new material and previously unreleased songs, the tracks here do have an undeniably retro feel, with proceedings brimming with all the galloping riff work and dual harmony leads we have come to expect. Rather formulaic yes, but the strength of the song writing here quickly banishes any danger of ‘As Above, So Below’ being a languid throwback. Opener ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ impresses with its driving guitars, fluidly melodic lead breaks and a menacingly clean picked intro, yet as with throughout the album, it is the vocal performance of Kevin Heybourne which proves to be the highlight, his warm, majestic tone and consistently soaring melodies being fantastically infectious, coming as a timely reminder of his often overlooked song writing prowess.
Elsewhere, there are gems littered copiously. ’Guillotine’ is a stomping, heads down number with a glut of superb solos, ’Into The Dark’ builds on a mid tempo groove before exploding into a full throttle finale, and the free flowing instrumental fragment in ‘The Horla’ displays the bands enduring musicality, the sumptuous harmonies as stirringly delivered as anything they have written in decades.
It is true that many may scoff, wholly unjustly, at Angel Witch’s somewhat lack of progress. With outfits such as the recently reformed Hell updating their sound with stunning results, ‘As Above, So Below’ foregoes any modern glossy production values and may stick rather rigidly to the established Angel Witch blueprint, yet there is more than enough stellar material here to contend with any of the NWOBHM heavy hitters still in the game. Indeed, it is this straightforwardly old school approach that lends this release much of its charm, and will come as a well deserved treat for many long suffering Angel Witch devotees.