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Not since Cliff 'em All has there been such an amateurish product passed off as an official release; Angel Witch - 2000, however, displays neither the honest disclaimer on the packaging nor the theoretical justification of the former.
Regarding production quality, we find:
-An unfavorable music-to-audience sound level ratio.
-A full stereo-spread for the audience chatter, but not for the music.
-Noticeable oscillations in the high frequencies and periodic phase cancellations as would be caused by human-sized masses of matter passing in between a microphone element and its sound source.
-The kind of artificial transient attack that is characteristic of drums being amplified through PA speakers.
Without further evidence to the contrary, there seems little reason to doubt that Live at the LA2 is neither a pro mix nor even (as suggested by a previous reviewer) a soundboard mix, but rather an audience recording captured with a single stereo-mic setup. Since the same person is credited in the notes with 'video footage', 'live recording', and 'live photos', and since the CD is reportedly the product of a single night at the London Astoria (May 26, 2000, as we are told), one can only speculate how much attention actually went into any one of those three tasks. Which raises the question: Who the hell is Zoom Club Records, and what were they thinking? It's not even as if this were a reunion of the original line-up (three of the four musicians never appeared on any previous, or subsequent, Angel Witch recording as far as I can tell). There must be a story behind all this, and maybe it's a good one. That is, better than the obvious one of an egregiously unprofessional and/or dishonest record label hoping to extract money from the public. Perhaps someone else here on Metal Slow Chives can be the first to solve the mystery.
So, if you were looking forward to enjoying an updated production of some of your old favorites, you will be disappointed. If you're an undiscriminating completist with a high tolerance for bootleg sound quality, you might find this to be an endearing addition to your collection. For anyone in between, just try to borrow a copy from your friend. I mean, it's Angel Witch. Or at least, it's Kevin Heybourne, playing some Angel Witch songs, with three other people.
Angel Witch. Live. Need I say more?
I don't HAVE to, but I will, because this album is fucking great and fully worthy of gushing praise. It's almost criminal that things have never managed to come together for Kevin Heybourne. The songs he's written in Angel Witch epitomize the entire NWOBHM movement and inspired, well, almost everyone playing metal today - yet all he has to show for it is underground cult status, one endlessly-reissued classic debut album, and twenty years of the revolving door syndrome. I thought the last gasp of AW was the live album Metal Blade put out over a decade ago - but boy am I glad I was wrong. He's put together another lineup in the past year and even appeared in a few metal festivals, and now this - a live album recorded at London's Astoria. This two-disc set captures the show fairly well. Disc 1 is the full show, almost an hour of Angel Witch classics - basically the entire first album (minus Sweet Danger and Free Man), Baphomet, Extermination Day, and Twist of the Knife, and a little guitar solo. The performances are fantastic; Heybourne has recruited some top-notch sidemen. The drumming and guitar work are particularly noteworthy, and the backing vocals fill out the choruses and such nicely. Kevin himself is no slouch in the vocal or guitar department, of course, and there isn't a single misstep on this album. The energy level is nice and high, and though some of the stuff is a bit faster than the originals there is NO slop at all. The sound suffers a bit - this is basically a soundboard dump and they must have just used the room mix - the drums and vocals are far too forward in the mix relative to the bass and guitars, though this does get better towards the end of the disc. Still, it's clean enough that you don't really have to work to listen to it.
Disc 2 of this set is a video disc for your DVD or PC MPEG player containing three videos (White Witch, Angel Witch, and Baphomet) from this performance. Stills of these videos were used for the packaging as well. All in all it's a great deal on a great album and definitely worthwhile.
(Originally published at LARM (c) 2001)