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I'm gonna start this review by talking about heavy metal, in general, as I feel that it's quite appropriate for what I'm about to say. The genre is known to be dark, heavy and to have lyrics dealing with the occult and the world's demise. Some people might just stumble upon this album and say to themselves, "Oh, just another cliche early-80s heavy metal album that has the typical stereotypes". I can't really find an album before this that does it in this way. Sure, bands like Black Widow and Sabbath sang about the occult, at times, but they never put it together with the musical qualities that are considered typical heavy metal, today.
Might I also mention that this album is heavier (and darker) than anything I've heard that came out before this. Songs like "White Witch" and "Atlantis" have a dark and heavy sound that was unmatched, at the time, with their occult, world's end- themed lyrics and down-tuned, heavy guitar riffs. However, tracks like this also contain quite a bit of melody. For this reason, I must mention the track, "Angel of Death". The song pays no mind to how well structured the melody is, or the catchiness of itself, but rather on the heaviness and darkness of itself. The main riff of the song sounds like something that a band such as Pantera would use, even on The Great Southern Trendkill. Lyric-wise, the song is about Hell's angel of death taking the souls of those who were not good enough to make it into Heaven. I am not implying that the melodic songs are not as good, but rather that this song has a significant importance in the genre of heavy metal.
There are a few exceptions of songs that do not have a dark feeling (however, all of them are quite heavy, for their time). One is the title track, which is my favorite song on the album, as it is unbelievably catchy and has some pretty badass guitar work. Another is the fast-paced "Sweet Danger", which is actually a quite bluesy track when compared to the rest of the album. The last example of this is the ballad, "Free Man", which is quite possibly one of my favorite metal ballads ever written. It is probably the least heavy song on the album, but what can you expect from a ballad.
There are two things that stand out to me the most about this album. One is the raw production. The production on this album is not glossy, but neither is the music on the album, so I consider this to be appropriate. The production is cleaner on the cleaner tracks and dirtier on the tracks that are more abrasive, which is actually quite impressive, considering that on most albums, the production never varies.
The other thing that I will mention that stands out to me is the guitar work. The guitar has a quite gritty tone and is played with both fury and technicality. The fury mainly comes in with the down-tuned, heavy riffs, while the technicality mainly comes in with the solos. It all has the perfect blend of anger and melody, which comes out as some gloomy and sometimes quite haunting guitar work, for the times.
This album was exceptionally ahead of its time. It was only 1980, so heavy metal had yet to evolve into what it is best known as. This album is a very large milestone in the evolution of the genre. It's quite a shame that this album is overlooked as much as it is. It is pretty recognised by the heavy metal community today, but I feel that by some, it's somewhat unappreciated. This is by far one of the best and most important NWOBHM releases and it has influenced many metal bands today. This is an absolute must-listen for anyone who likes classic heavy metal with melody and abrasiveness.
-Angel of Death
With their debut album, Angel Witch accomplished something that many bands with an endless back catalog struggle to do, and that's make heavy metal history. This piece of spinning black vinyl contains some of the most amazing compositions, riffs, solos, moods, and vocal performances you will ever hear from a traditional heavy metal band.
Angel Witch's music is so very special that is really hard to find another band to compare them to. Kevin Heybourne, the guitar player, singer, and main songwriter is strongly influenced by Black Sabbath, and you can tell that by the monstrous riffs in songs like "Atlantis", "Confused", "Angel Of Death", and "The Devil's Tower". On the other hand, like many contemporaries of the N.W.O.B.H.M, they also draw many passages from the '70s progressive rock movement, giving Angel Witch's music an eerie, deep atmosphere which is quite unique. Just listen to "Free Man" and "Sorcerers" and be transported to far away corners of the world.
But it's really in their epic and glorious heavy metal anthems that you will find yourself praising this band in no time. The title track, "Angelwitch", remains as one of heavy metal's most immediate classics. It's almost impossible to listen this masterpiece without raising your fist with pride. "White Witch" is my personal favorite anthem from this opus as the initial riff is just pure genius and sets the mood for the sudden burst when the vocals come in, then the bridge in the middle takes you straight to the lair of the witch and then the first riffs appears once again to send chills down your spine. The chorus is something that any self-respecting headbanger will want to scream aloud with a beer in hand: "Buuuuuurn the white witch....". "Gorgon" and "Sweet Danger" are strong, unique, and original and that is just about the best definition for this amazing band.
The performance in this 1980 classic is displayed with a lot of talent and passion. The voice of Kevin Heybourne is great with a very personal touch. Many find it hard to digest but you should definitely give it a chance and it will grow on you. On the other hand, his guitar playing is absolutely fantastic with riffs and solos of the highest caliber, delivered with pure feeling and class. Kevin Riddles plays some of the most inventive and tasty bass lines of that era and without hesitation I would put him in the league of gods like Geezer Butler and Steve Harris. Steve Hogg is a very adequate drummer for the style of music they play and completes the unforgettable trio of Angel Witch's first record.
If you've never listened to this album, I urge you to do so! If you already know it and you found it nothing special, give it another go because it certainly deserves it. It's not just another record in the endless stream of metal music, it's one of metal's more fantastic achievements.
When oldsters like me wax nostalgic about the glory days of the NWOBHM, Angel Witch is invariably one of the bands that gets us misty eyed. The band’s sharp yet brooding, tough yet melodic occult-flecked style was very new to us at the time, bearing hints of Sabbath and other elder forces but in a clearly new guise. Band leader Kevin Heybourne was not only a sterling guitarist but also was possessed of a fine singing voice and a talent for penning classic metal according to his own unique vision. Also their debut album looked really Satanic, with the band’s baphomet adorned logo and the classical painting of hell slapped on there, but this no death or black metal affair.
What we have is energetic, snappy songs visited by a raw guitar sound, melodic passages and a basic but perfectly functional sound job. There are classics galore here, the band’s own theme song “Angel Witch” (duh) being amongst metal’s finest hours and certainly high atop the NWOBHM food chain. “Gorgon” has an almost UFO like stride, but “Sweet Danger” really brings the band’s love of matching melody with force into view. All of this is well and good, but “Angel Of Death” is another mug of poison entirely. Built on the most malicious of riffs, this cut, with it’s slashing riffs, dramatic structure and seriously menacing guise, this is perhaps the band’s summit and another NWOBHM benchmark for sure.
Damn awesome this album, and it should have made major players out of this band. But it didn’t, and in disillusioned shame they forged ahead with weaker vision and even lesser fame. A sad but essential chapter for metal nevertheless.
This is easily one of the best Heavy Metal albums; not only of the NWOBHM era but in the Metal world in general. Angel Witch's debut was easily the heaviest of the lot as possibly darkest of the lot. Sadly, its successors weren't as attention grabbing. Everyone who calls themselves a headbanger needs to hear this album at least once before they die.
The production is a bit thin, but its better than the production on Maidens first album. The guitars are fierce, heavy and all over the place. Once again, to make a general comparison, they are arguably more technical than Maidens. The solos are bombastic if a little sloppy at times. The leads and melodies are refreshing and still relevant today. There is an incredibly epic feeling to the songs, perhaps by accident. There is isn't a very dark album per say but it does have its moments. Heybourne is a very competent song writer and it shows. The songs are generally mid-tempo to fast with perhaps a few slower pieces here and there. The creativity in the songs is practically unparalleled for its time. This is the same for the distortion used on his amps.
The bass is standard and uninspired; this isn't necessarily a bad thing since the guitars are meant to dominate the songs. The drums are also very standard for the period but effective.
The vocals suck. There is no nice way to put it other than that. Kevin should never be allowed behind a microphone unless he's without a guitar. His pitch is acceptable but his voice sounds blown out and tired. Its very tiring very quickly.
This album is very Thrashy with the palm muted parts far over shadowing the open chorded passages. The music is very raw and unpolished but energetic and intense; there is a lot of guitar layering. Most of the songs have dual harmonies coupled with one or two guitar solos as well. According to the liner notes, the lyrics are very tongue in cheek regarding all matters of darkness, evil, etc... but they are well written. With that being said, most of the songs are excellent with only a few being hard to swallow more than once (Those being on the re-release for the most part). This is something that everyone can enjoy as its so varied in its song writing and delivery. A MUST have for all diehard NWOBHM addicts!
What if life and death were two twines, braided into a rope called “Angel Witch?”
The album before us is a reflection of the universal human spirit; our desire to believe in a God, to hold passionately tight to our ideals of wonder and romance, and to embrace our faith in both angels and witches alike: all this manifests within.
This masterpiece from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal has soaring vocal harmonies, galloping guitar rhythms, and a ghostly atmosphere. Tracks like “The Sorceress” simply run chills down your backbone, while “Angel of Death” will make you cringe in fear. Others, like the opener “Angel Witch,” sing a heartbreaking tale of unrequited love. The story is of a woman so simultaneously perfect and wicked, she feeds Kevin Heybourne’s desire to both live and die. Noticeable contrast between the bittersweet lyrics and upbeat melody flawlessly capture the conflicting nature of romantic infatuation.
With soul-felt guitar solos, emotional vocal performances, and a solid level of technical musicianship, even a cynic could appreciate this superb effort. The supernatural overtones color this release with a paranormal, vivacious flamboyance. This is not Conan the Barbarian sword-and-sorcery, but rather a children’s bedtime fairytale. It hits close to home for anyone with fantasies and dreams.
Not all music invents a whole new world, but Angel Witch’s debut certainly does. In this unnamed land, when you kiss your wife’s lips goodnight in bed, you don’t worry about the unpaid bills; you worry about the black witches out to kill her.
Angel Witch is a less dark, more enchanted Black Sabbath. This is haunting, magical surrealism at its finest.
Being a twisted child of the eighties, I grew up listening to Maiden, Raven, Venom and some Saxon, and yes, Def Leppard BG (Before Gay) when they were great, and that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of NWOBHM. Twenty years later I’m having a great time expanding my horizons and discovering what this socio-musical movement was all about.
Yes the lyrics are often cheesy, so what, it’s all good fun anyway. Yes the sound production is dated, but what the hell do you want, this was almost thirty years ago and studio technology was light years away from properly capturing high intensity music, such as symphony orchestras and metal bands. And yes the vocalists lack power and they sound like the effeminate pot-sucking crooners from the early sixties British invasion; the only notable exceptions being Bruce Dickinson and Biff Byford, with honorable mention going to Joe Elliot, John Gallagher and Cronos for having balls. Hmmm… all of these happened to be the singers of the bands I knew back then. It’s not a coincidence. I think the bands that had the more talented frontmen gained international acclaim, while the rest faded away, only to be remembered by ever loyal Danish drummers from the Bay Area. Too bad, really, because I think a lot of these bands had a lot to offer.
Despite these drawbacks, this old school music has a lot going for itself that today's metal babies could learn from. I’m not narrow-minded, nor am I old-fashioned. But I fucking know metal. I think there are many interesting, talented and truly remarkable bands in metal these days, but, sadly, due to greedy record company market saturation, the whole genre seems infected by no good worthless fucking jag-offs who think they know how to play metal by chugging out two power chords on the bottom end. They have no sense of song structure, riff composition, melodic sensibility, or any knowledge of their instruments, or any discernable talent whatsoever. And then the media tells us that we’re not cool unless we love these “arteests”. Go fuck and anthill.
Angel Witch is a prime example of what heavy metal was like in the early days, what it meant, how it was played, how it sounded, how it felt. The key factor to the quality of the music is as always, songwriting, charismatic energy and specifically where this band is concerned, instrumental prowess, most notably the guitar work of Kevin Heybourne. I bet I could sit in a room full of guitar players and say his name and nobody would know who I was talking about. A shame, because when I first heard this disc, I was very impressed by the guitar work: tremendous variety, multiple layers, bottom end riffs, soaring leads, arpeggios, clean chordal work, single note lines in harmony, you name it. Wanna sample? Check out the song “Atlantis” and listen to the numerous guitar parts. Craftsmanship, artistry and creativity.
Angel Witch often sound like Iron Maiden, most notably on “Sorceress”, which sounds like “Remember Tomorrow”, and on “Sweet Danger”, which sounds like it was stolen from Maiden’s recording studio. However, this album came out at the same time as Maiden’s first baby, so I don’t think it’s a rip-off. The similarities are more likely due to shared musical influences, such as Wishbone Ash, for example. Add to that a great slow tune, “Free Man”, early evil music in the form of “White Witch” and “Angel of Death” (no not the Slayer masterpiece) and you have a great recording worthy of being added to any true metal fan’s collection.
Oh Angel Witch, you big occulted girl's blouses. You say you dabble in the occult, do you? If by the occult you mean your sister’s hair straighteners. Then yes, Kevin Heybourne harnesses the very powers of hell via an electrical wand in the depths of night... just before his mum shouts;
"Kevin, teas ready! It's your favourite bangers and mash!"
"Aw mum, you promised you wouldn't do this while Cronos is here!"
So in short: Angel Witch are fucking pansies – the epitome of wimpy NWOBHM. They sound as if they wouldn't say boo to a goose. Cronos, Mantas and Abbaddon - if they lived in London - would kick their arses in the pub, the graveyard, the bus station and even the library. After this old school roughhousing, Angel Witch would retreat to a quiet tavern and nurse their wounds over a rum and coke. Fuck, even Dennis Stratton laughs at these guys and he likes The Eagles!
But all this meekness and self-effacing – which the band's mousy girl friends would have to endure over their gin and tonics, whilst being regaled with tales of how they almost stood up to Cronos this time – is not necessarily a bad thing. Angel Witch don't kick you in the bollocks and force you into the nearest grave as my favourite Geordie trio would (not The fucking Police!), but they do occupy a nice middle ground between the heavier spectrum of NWOBHM and the bands who had sick cover art but nothing that would even disturb an airport metal detector (yes Demon, I'm talking to you). Speaking of album art, this has an absolute cracker... it turns out when not getting their arses kicked at the library; the Angel Witch boys found some lovely pictures.
NWOBHM – for the most part – is fairly weak in the vocal department. Outside of Di'anno's cockney growl, Bruce Dickinson's stage school bombast, Cronos's "haway the lads... let's conduct a séance!" bravado and, of course, the Yorkshire fog horn, Peter Byford, NWOBHM vocalists often sound rather polite. Kevin Heybourne is an example of this, his vocals don't really demand attention they kind of go;
"whisper whisper whisper, Angel of Death! Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb". It's enjoyable in a way, but stylistically strange. However, Kevin is a great NWOBHM guitarist and has some pleasant melodies and riffs throughout. Still, I'd love to have heard his stage manner in 1980, at the Queen's Legs pub (which was always open, so I've heard). "Um, hello we’re Angel Witch... sorry we're late. The number 52 bus got held up behind the train lines..."
The title track itself is Angel Witch's peak, I've not heard their other albums... but legend has it they were only available from Yummy Mummy cereal in late '85. So yeah, this is brilliant. The opening actually does command your attention and moves briskly into a Sabbath-esque melodic lead, after the opening display of meedley mee. Wonderful stuff, even the goofy middle eight of 'I'd never hurt you' doesn't spoil things. 'Sweet Danger' is another pleasant up-beat rocker, not bad at all; just Iron Maiden did this sort of thing better.
One gets a sense of this whole album being a tad incomplete. Ideas could have been developed a little better and more time could have been spent on Kevin's vocals to ensure that he didn't sound like he had a speech problem. This is particularly awkward on 'Atlantis', which features some menacing riffs. But all atmosphere is lost when we hear the somewhat interesting pronounced, ‘tomorrow’. 'Angel of Death', suffers a similar fate. I think something great could have been done with the guitars in this song, but the all too obvious structure lets it down. The song only really gets going in the solo sections, which are excellent, seriously, Dave Murray would have been proud.
However, one stinker is present. 'Free Man', this reeks of "Hmmm, ballad time, better pick some open chords and use that phaser mum got me for Christmas". Once the gain is turned down the vocal shortcomings are greatly apparent, "All my ffffriiieendssss", what? I'm sorry, "frrrieendss"? No wonder you have none, you talk like a lobotomy victim! Still, this token ballad does have one great moment, the guitar solo, which is a bit too brief if you ask me and given that you’ve read this far I’m guessing you did!
So Angel Witch's debut is a good album. Nothing more. Wimpy to the core and the vocals are really silly in places, but if you enjoy NWOBHM you'll find something here. Overrated, but still enjoyable and necessary for NWOBHM buffs.
I really don’t know why I didn’t find this album sooner, I'm still slapping myself. For the past few years, I’d been stuck in a real rut, dissatisfied with a great deal of black metal that everyone knows I listen to. It was at this time that I decided to put down black metal for a while and develop some listening attitudes of speed, thrash, and 80s power metal. I came upon Satan (who has went through several name changes), and thanks to the mp3 contributions made by my comrade DeathFog (hails, dude), I was able to immerse myself in NWOBHM that seemed fresh to me, something that would really give me some understanding of the genre and a very good foundation with which to pursue my higher education in NWOBHM.
It was after some time I kept investigating with some success here and there, but finally, it was when I found this immeasurably worth-filled gem that I could not put it down at all. What I found made me search for even more NWOBHM. Continually listening to this has made me seek older NWOBHM such as this: Diamond Head, Quartz, Tygers of Pan Tang and so on.
Every song on this album is magnificent; I couldn’t and still can’t get past the fact that I hear so much psychedelic rock influences, along with a strong blues feel, that are ingrained into the this album. One can notice these features by checking the organ playing throughout some songs, and the intros to many songs have a psychedelic effect, especially the tranquil, yet ethereal “Gorgon”, which is a personal favorite of mine. Also notable, is in the strong usage of occult and mystical lyrical content – both are markers of psychedelic rock.
It is this kind of nostalgic content and solos and that remind of Thin Lizzy (“Gorgon”, “The Sorcerer”) that make the album stuck in a vacuum, which I greatly appreciate from these guys. Perfect instrumentation and production (lovely, lovely bass I might add), not to mention the vocal delivery of Kevin Heybourne amplifies the performance from his repertoire of high-pitched shrieks to sustained vibrato on his falsettos. Everyone has already said enough about the well-pointed out addictive, fistitude*-filled proto-thrash riff of Atlantis, and I love the doomy twang that is “The Sorcerer”. What I thought topped it all off, however, is the grandiose, brooding "Angel of Death", signified by the commanding vocals of Heybourne, again! It’s terribly electrifying hearing his ‘ANGEL OF DEA-A-A-A-A-ATH’ throughout, which galvanizes the magnitude of the song especially. The conclusion of the track is just the imperial mark of NWOBHM, complete with grand, refined guitar work, and finally that overwhelming sensation that doom is imminent.
This album is difficult, if not impossible, to surpass. The entire album is spotless, and the magic of nostalgia makes for an even stronger force to resist giving it a 100, even if I wasn’t born in 1980 (heh, whatever). The sense of adventure brought about by Heybourne's incessantly satisfying riffs will never cease to amaze me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got more Angel Witching to be done.
*NOTE: Fistitude – fist-pumping attitude; a rather strong, epic, or otherwise kick-ass sensation that induces fits of fists (and/or horns) being pumped in the air. (Coined by yours truly, circa 2006.)
Oh, sweet innocence! How beautiful it is to be unaware of sorrow, duty and circumstance. To be like a child and run free with the wind in your face upon the fields amongst the endless rows of flowers – to exist in a bubble of joy. One cannot help but crave a second chance to look at the world as a stranger, new to its mysteries, impervious to its overwhelming despondency, content to hear the songs of nature without a care in the world.
When listening to albums that were a prototype to the grand things that were to follow, one cannot help but admire the sense of Spirit and wonder that is present in these formative works. As found in Black Sabbath’s and Judas Priest’s seminal early works Angel Witch’s debut is teeming with a sense of adventure, a love of the bizarre and the representation of Will as Idea. From their desire to explore what makes life so mysterious - the sense of wonder in what lies beyond consciousness – and the magic that is veiled behind the tragedy of existence, they transcended man’s state of being predisposed to living content in a dead-world. From this led the (re)birth of a world that is beyond good and evil, a world reminiscent of Ancient triumph and an augury to a glorious future – the rough beginnings of a journey to the stars.
Admittedly the verse-chorus format utilised on this album is sometimes obvious and underdeveloped, but Angel Witch have also managed to use it effectively as a point of balance or a tension release and even more cleverly in some songs, particularly ‘White Witch’, as a voice of opposition to the verse – the cries of the feckless masses as they shout down anyone who dares to arise out of the grave that they created as their abode. The guitar playing is sharp, with intricate neo-classical leads interposed over a solid rhythmic base in the vein of Judas Priest. Whilst none of this is highly original, the importance of this album lies in the ability of the band in refining the aesthetics foundations of the 70s into a new context – and composed like an artist free of expectation and free of artistic boundaries. The band looked into the night and upon seeing a shadow by the moon was inspired to create a spacious realm of gentle clean arpeggios amidst the onrush of violent death. Gentle British melodies flow like streams, winding their way eloquently through the barrage of the storm. Most impressive is the carefully developed relationship between the ringing ambient chords and the above mentioned dreamy softer sections with the bounding energy of NWOBHM riffing. This creates a feeling of freedom, a place of vast space, where conflict is allowed to run its course without interruption, a world of natural splendour.
In listening to prototype albums such as ‘Angel Witch’ we essentially learn more about the genre by realising where the Spirit of the genre had its foundations. The listening experience is made even more enjoyable by the fact that this is more than just a mere historical artefact, it is an excellent artistic statement made by a band that was not afraid to use their imagination and explore the vast deeps of the mind.
Well, my first perfect score for an album review. It deserves it, man. Raw and heavy, but the vox and guitar melodies of Kevin Heyborn are just purely fantastic. The album begins with a bang, a mass amount of furious, neo-classical riffage and leads into the sweet ass sweet first verse of the title song, "Nobody else can see you the same way as I, fly high and touch the sky, you're the angel I adore". Not to mention the definet and unforgettable chorus of this killer, live favorite. All the songs on the album has sort of an early Sabbath-ish feeling to them, with much more speed and neo-classical riffs delivered by one of the best axemen in metal history. Sometimes it's very hard to believe that Angel Witch was only a 3-peice band back when this was relesed, since the overall sound is so amazing despite its rawness. Of course, the rawness only adds more quality and perfection to this release, giving it a perfect mood when listening to. It's not raw in the crappy "kvlt" black metal way, but more towards Di'anno era Maiden or Venom, with a much better vox. Speaking of Maiden, this album is about 5 times better than their debute, and highly ranked up there with Saxon's 2 releases back in 1980, perhapse even better than that.
The version that I own includes and albums worth of bonus tracks that are 7'' and 12'' inch singles, including "Baphomet" which only previously appeard on the 'Metal For Muthas' compilation in 1979. Without the bonus tracks, I would have given this album around 95% considering its short length, but of course the bonus tracks bring this masterpeice to perfection. "Hades Paradies" is one of my all time favorite metal songs, beautily done. DO NOT call yourself a metal head if you do not own this album!!
Best songs on album: Angel Witch, White Witch, Gorgon, Angel Of Death
Best bonus songs: Loser, Dr. Phibes, Hades Paradise