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Village Hall Tomfoolery Part III - Angel Wimp - 80%

Acrobat, August 9th, 2008

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, tea's 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 wimps – 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 girlfriends 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 (update: I heard them, they're not great). 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 - even if it does seem like they're simultaneously struggling with the awkwardness of puberty whilst fighting dark forces. '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 great album. Nothing more and certainly not as perfect as some others might say. Wimpy to the core and the vocals are really silly in places, but if you enjoy NWOBHM you'll find something here. If you don't own it - you really should get it.