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The Most 60's Album of the 80's Ever Recorded - 83%

Superchard, January 19th, 2019

If you were to hand an unsuspecting person who dug heavy metal but never heard of Angel Witch a copy of their debut album and asked them what year they though this album came out, they'd probably not have a very confident answer as to whether this came out in the late 70's or early 80's. Angel Witch's self-titled debut for me is the album that metaphorically was the transition, the stepping stone if you will between the decades. While their fiercest of competition, Iron Maiden was bringing the scene to a more focused sound to spawn countless imitators, Angel Witch wasn't quite as forward thinking on the debut album. Initially a trio hailing from London, England, Angel Witch had the simple and raw format of Motorhead mixed with a little bit of progressive era Black Sabbath here, some Deep Purple there, and even a little bit of Judas Priest could be heard in Kevin Heybourne's vocals when he would let out vastly inferior falsettos. Most prominently though, Angel Witch was for the most part like a successor to Gun, a proto metal band from the late 60's, and yes that is to say that there's even a quite a bit of late 60's hard rock going on here.

Heybourne's falsettos are kept to a minimum and his natural singing voice is this high pitched loose and flimsy style of singing that's near identical to a young Kim Bendix Peterson of Mercyful Fate, or perhaps a more accurate simile would be to compare him to Peterson when he was in Black Rose, before he developed his character, wardrobe and signature falsettos. Although Angel Witch is chock full of influences that predate heavy metal, that's not to say they come off sounding behind the times. Maybe a little if we were to compare it to Iron Maiden's self titled debut of the same year, but they're actually quite similar releases in that there's a fair deal of punk rock delivery to the entire first half of the album barring "Sorceress" which brings old school rock n' roll along the likes of Max Frost and the Troopers to a heavy metal setting. Yes, I'm aware that's not really a legitimate band, but I can't not hear "Shape of Things to Come" for instance when listening to some of the faster paced tunes on here. It might not be the heaviest thing in the world, but I'm hard pressed to find another release that sounds anything like Angel Witch.

Well, except for maybe that one band I can't stop bringing up, Iron Maiden. The punk rock emphasis, the untrained falsettos, and not to mention the similarities between lighter, more experimental tracks like "Sorceress" baring striking similarity to something like "Remember Tomorrow". dipping into something more spacey and atmospheric. Those heavily melodic lead styles and galloping riffs made famous by Dave Murray are present throughout the album as well, which is always a plus in my book. Kevin Riddles manages to be the greatest asset to the rhythm section team here, almost constantly going his separate way from Heybourne's guitar, an unfortunately rare sight to see in metal in general. To someone who's never heard Angel Witch, my review might not be doing them justice by comparing the similarities between these two bands, as Angel Witch still brings plenty to the table that Iron Maiden never have. Organs you'd expect from a 70's hard rock band, a darker atmosphere which is even depicted on the hellish landscape on the front cover, and that volcanic introductory solo to the opening title track is an assertion that NWOBHM was going to explode into the next big thing as far as I'm concerned.

Though for everyone out there claiming that Grim Reaper were a bunch of slouches for repetitive songwriting and don't apply the same criticism to Angel Witch's debut at least for the first couple of songs are fooling themselves. I certainly would concede Angel Witch is a stronger album than See You in Hell, but the choruses to "Angel Witch" and "Atlantis" can be just as grating, though they are better crafted. I also detest how the opening track ends in a fade out, as I'm sure most metal heads hate being left on a cliffhanger ending. I can't sing many praises for "Free Man" either, which is a less focused version of "Sorceress", attempting their best shot at a dynamic hard rock song using something like Deep Purple's "Child in Time" as a template. They drive a good attempt, but ultimately fall short of making something as emotionally compelling than what I believe they were going for.

Angel Witch. It's not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, just a very overrated one. I'll definitely give props to the pre-thrash of "Angel of Death" and being big time influences for Megadeth (and apparently Slayer). Angel Witch could've definitely contested with the best of them, and there's a good reason why they're as remembered and revered as they are to this day. It's one of the most honest and wholesome NWOBHM records I've ever had the pleasure of listening to, wearing their outdated influences on their sleeves and raising a metaphorical middle finger to anyone that dared to question their integrity. Unfortunately the band would not last long under its original lineup, and as Heybourne struggled to keep the project going, Angel Witch would find it hard to find relevance in the steep competition of the early 80's. It's a band I'm sad to see not come out on top and join the ranks with the bigger names of their era, Angel Witch may or may not be gone (their last album was in 2012 at the time of writing this review), but definitely not forgotten.

Superchard gets super hard for:
Sweet Danger
Angel Witch
White Witch