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Cliche? This Started The Cliche! - 99%

Caleb9000, November 27th, 2015

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.

Highlights:
-Angel Witch
-Sweet Danger
-Free Man
-Angel of Death