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Originally formed in the late-70s, Angel Witch held a prominent presence within the NWOBHM scene and are oft quoted, to this day, as an influence in the sound of many a contemporary band. So it's refreshing to see them back with an album of their own, 'As Above, So Below', that's chock-full of retro-metal qualities (I refrain from using the word "clichés" as I gather Angel Witch were responsible for inventing many of those traits in the first place which have merely become clichés over time through years of imitation). So what of the band in 2012? Well, only frontman, vocalist/guitarist Kevin Heybourne remains who, I understand, decided to revive Angel Witch following an injury sustained through working as a tree surgeon. Joining him, and in the lineup since 2009, are bassist Will Palmer and drummer Andy Prestridge, so they are but a three-piece (although guitarist Bill Steer of Carcass and one-time Napalm Death fame has become, more recently, a live session player). And what an immense sound they have for just a trio, aided by a modern, resonant production but simultaneously maintaining a certain vintage feel (at the hands of Jaime Gomez Arellano). This vintage element manifests mainly through the acoustic, organic sonics of Prestridge's kit, and Heybourne's guitar which has a warm, rich sounding fuzz in the distortion, noticeably on passages of palm-muted riffing. Actually, even the style of reverb on the vocals adds to the retro vibe. But, like I say, it still maintains a modern edge production-wise so achieves a nice retro/contemporary balance. It's largely a retro affair with the compositions though, but I guess that will depend on your own perception. With metal of yore seemingly in favour at the moment (undoubtedly due, in part, to the large number of older bands who've reformed in recent years), the NWOBHM sound is ripe for re-discovery by a whole, new generation of music fan so, at least for someone, it'll sound new. And, in another sense, it's modern sounding within the context of Angel Witch's previous output but that's to be expected for what is their first studio album for fourteen years and only one original member still present. However, it all sounds far from a Heybourne-centric outing. Although certain tracks are riff driven over particular passages, the overriding effect is very much of a band effort - Prestridge's drumming remains subtly inventive throughout with some neat fills, and Palmer's bass adds a nice depth to Angel Witch's overall sound. Have you ever wondered what NWOBHM should sound like in the twenty first century? This is it. Impressive stuff.
Rise Above Records
Review by Mark Holmes
12th March 2012
1) Dead Sea Scrolls
2) Into the Dark
3) Gebura
4) The Horla
5) Witching Hour
6) Upon This Cord
7) Guillotine
8) Brainwashed
"Have you ever wondered what NWOBHM should sound like in the twenty first century? This is it."