In the late 70's a new style of rock music emerged from the UK. Dubbed NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), metal's first major movement spawned many well known acts such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard (though the band themselves does not personally consider this of themselves), Diamond Head, and Girlschool, as well as being joined by the mighty Judas Priest. However, the NWOBHM also had hundreds of lesser known bands that never made it big. In that regard we have the likes of Samson, Legend, Praying Mantis, Blitzkrieg, and of course Angel Witch. In its original state, the band released their debut album, simply titled Angel Witch. Unfortunately, internal strife grew in the band, and in less than two years, the band was no more. Angel Witch would resurface and die several times over the next few years, seemingly being put to rest for good in 1989. But once again, founding member Kevin Heybourne restarted the band in 2000, only to have it breakup and reform by 2003. I wish Heybourne would find on a stable line-up, seriously, what the hell.
Anyways, again, the band released their debut album, Angel Witch in 1980. To this very day the album is regarded by many as a NWOBHM classic along side the likes of Iron Maiden's s/t album, One Through the Night, and Wheels of Steel. The album's opener, which happens to be the title track, is a very good example of why the album is held in such high esteem. Each member displays a great deal of energy constantly throughout the release, and not once should they put fans of the genre to sleep. One notable aspect of the band's music is their infectious choruses. No matter how simplistic and cheesy the lyrics are, who can deny loving memorable lines such as: "You're an angel witch! / You're an angel witch!" or "It's falling it's falling / The final bell is tolling"? Really fun to listen to, as guitarist/vocalist Kevin Heybourne has a very fitting voice.
Musically, Angel Witch is a fantastic band, with many fist pumping riffs, excellent drumming, and driving, audible bass lines. Superb leads, excellent rhythm guitar can be found all over the album. The very riffy Angel of Death
has the band performing both of those characteristics at their best, as does the album's third track, White Witch
. As mentioned before, the bass lines of bassist Kevin Riddles are very audible. In fact, Angel Witch's bassist has his bass loud enough where you can hear it just as clearly as the guitar. As Riddles is an ace bassist, this can only be considered a good thing. Combined with the pounding drumming of Dave Hogg, Angel Witch was blessed with a rhythm section that was the envy of many of their NWOBHM contemporaries. Too bad they quit the band not too long after…
So I've mentioned several positives about this fine album, so are there any negatives? Unfortunately, the album is not perfect. So yes, the album could have been better in a few aspects. One flaw I found in the album is the production of the guitars. At times there is a killer metallic sound leading the fray which sounds great. On other occasions, Heybourne seems too lose this edge, and his guitar sounds fairly dull. Now this is likely just because Angel Witch is an old record, but I can't say I enjoy this inconsistency very much. Another flaw I find in the album is that the middle section feels weaker than both the beginning and ending of the album. The songs Confused
are lacking when compared to songs like the ballad Free Man
or the opener Angel Witch
Much like the American Thrash movement in the late 80's, there was a large influx of young bands during the NWOBHM in the late 70's and early to mid 80's. While several were met with some sort of successes, others, like Angel Witch, never really achieved what they deserved. Rightfully so, Angel Witch's self-titled debut is regarded a classic in NWOBHM circles, a gem if you will. If you are lucky enough to somehow come across this, by all means pick it up, as the band delivers.
Angel of Death