Albums like this warm my heart. Bands like Angel Witch are the living justification of why I am a heavy metal fan in the first place. These two sentences could just as well end this review, but why not as well start it. There surely are lots of young readers here, who haven’t even heard of Angel Witch yet and, actually, there is at least one logical explanation for this. Five full-length albums for 41 years is not exactly what we would call prolific, but, hey – these guys have always put quality in favor of quantity, and such is the case here as well.
The only remaining original member Kevin Heybourne (vocals and guitars) has built a solid line-up which has been consistent during the last three years, with bassist Will Palmer even playing in a second studio album. Now, as strong as 2012’s As Above, So Below was, this is a different beast we have here. As opposed to their previous full-length, which was half consisted of reworkings of old, unreleased songs and demos, Angel Of Light, coming on November 1st via Metal Blade, features 7 brand new compositions, with only The Night Is Calling being culled from the deep archives.
What immediately makes impression is the deliberately old school production, with a DIY, late 70s references, which, combined with the instantly recognizable blend of Heybourne’s voice (just a little bit too buried in the mix), feels like a heavy metal time machine back to 1980. Don’t Turn Your Back is an absolute classic, starting the album with a trademark Angel Witch riff, as if it was composed during the cult debut album sessions. Death From Andromeda is much darker, with fat riffs and a fantastic rhythm section (thumbs up to Swedish guy Fredrik Jansson behind the drums), showing all the little nuances of the music. Almost all the songs fall somewhere around the 6-minute mark, yet all of them sound really compact and to-the point. What is crucial here is the sense of authenticity and vintage melodies in these compositions. When the closing riff in Death From Andromeda starts at 4:34, you know it that this is not just a band that plays great heavy metal, but a band that drinks from the source of inspiration and knows perfectly well what distinguishes the good song from the unforgettable one.
The Night Is Calling (which was mentioned to be the only reworked old track) is a mini-epic in the center of the album, which starts as a quasi-ballad and builds upon crushing riffs and the feeling of total desperation and impending doom created by the riffs and vocals. What excites mostly is the drama and conviction in the interplay between the beautiful guitar melodies and the plodding rhythm. Beautiful!
Condemned starts and ends with a riff that could easily bear the signature of master Iommi, reminding us once again just why exactly Angel Witch is still considered as a unique example of the darkest NWOBHM act.
Window Of Despair and I Am Infamy add even further to the excellent impression so far – both being master classes in accentuated guitar power and catchy riffs – just listen to the riff at 3:20 in I Am Infamy and the solo just after that – this is what we call metal perfection. Nothing less. The grand finale comes with the title track and another slab of ominous, doomy riffage, invoking the absolute best Angel Witch have ever been capable of. Final point here is that you probably won’t be able to listen to a better classic heavy metal album this year and the icing on the cake is that Angel Witch still have it in them, even after 41 years. The cult is alive.