Among the pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement (NWOBHM) including; Motorhead, Diamond Head, Saxon, Tank, Praying Mantis, and Girlschool. They were one of the beginnings and gave birth to the NWOBHM sound, but one of the bands that have been overlooked in the movement is a trio that launched back in the beginning of the punk movement of ’77 in South London by guitarist and vocalist Kevin Heybourne entitled Angel Witch.
Now when people think of the power trio’s they think of Rush, Blue Cheer, and ELP. Angel Witch never got any recognition and received mixed reviews when they released their sole self-titled debut on the Bronze label back in 1980. This is for me one of my favorite NWOBHM albums and whether you love or loathe it, it’s not just because it’s a transcendent debut and kicks heavy butt, but the way they can bring the driven tempo’s into a fierce and storming power in their sounds.
And 35 years later, it is for me an album that I will play forever and ever. I love the opening title track that starts things off with a gigantic bang as the band go into overdrive with an intense beat thanks to the drumming of Dave Hogg. Not to mention the sing-along line “You’re an Angel Witch! You’re an Angel Witch!” The blaring guitar lines between both rhythm and lead that Kevin does, is jaw-dropping and a head-banging classic along with the midsection clapping militant stomp.
Most of the time it reminded me of a French-Metal group called Trust. Man, do they nail it to a T. But there’s also a haunting side in Angel Witch’s music that resembles some of the early Sabbath music in Master of Reality, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and Sabotage in which keyboardist and bassist Kevin ‘Skids’ Riddles brings to the cornerstone of the band’s music.
Songs like Gorgon starts off with an ambient terrifying keyboard and guitar introduction that almost could have been used in the 1981 adult animated sci-fi cult classic, Heavy Metal before kicking into high gear in the styles of Sabbra Cadabra while the blaring section go into a signature of ¾ which is interesting for Angel Witch to step into for a relaxing section and punching drumming sounds that Dave Hogg does on Free Man, gives the band a calming yet emotional touch as Heybourne goes into the realms of Iommi on his guitar solo.
All of a sudden, they kick off into high gear in the styles as if Iron Maiden went into a Proto-Thrash Metal composition that I can imagine the early days of the Bay Area sounds from bands such as Metallica and Megadeth looked up into with Sweet Danger. The nightmare continues to linger on with a seguing into the tracks from Angel of Death which again, carries the doom metal approach of Sabbath and Heybourne sounding like at times Bruce Dickinson and then closing off into the night in an essence of a slowed-down melody of the Devil’s Tower that Kevin just nails it for a short instrumental piece and fades off into the night.
I have listened to Angel Witch’s sole self-titled debut about 12 times and for me they deserve some recognition. And with help from people like Malcolm Dome who gave it an astounding review in Sounds Magazine and DJ Neal Kay who was the master and helped get some of the bands some recognition at the Prince of Wales pub which was known as the Heavy Metal soundhouse in the late ‘70s in Kingsbury which was located at the northwest of London. He put the band on a compilation on volume one entitled Metal for Muthas.
But listening to it again, it makes you understand why Angel Witch were ahead of their time and never got any appreciation. So it’s time to dust off the album and play it up to maximum volume to get ready for a knockout amazement of the overlooked yet underrated sound of a band that is going to give you what they got in full driven momentum.