Release Date: March 27, 2012
Kevin Heybourne and Angel Witch were deeply rooted members of the NWOBHM in the late 70s early 80s. While some bands rose to prominence, a few, despite their contribution and talents withered quickly. Angel Witch was among the latter. Born from the ashes of Heybourne’s former band Lucifer, Angel Witch released one of the most seminal albums from the early NWOBHM era. The band’s self-titled opus was such an important work to the sound of the movement that it has been re-released no less than four times by three different labels. Sadly the intervening years were not kind to the band for innumerable reasons. Though they released three more albums with various line-ups none were nearly as impressive or worthy of the Angel Witch name.
Fast-forward 32 years beyond that debut masterpiece: Angel Witch returns with its fifth studio effort, As Above, So Below. Quite honestly this is a more genuine sophomore offering than 1985’s Screamin’ ‘n’ Bleedin’. The band’s founder and mainstay, guitarist and vocalist Kevin Heybourne has teamed with drummer Andrew Prestidge and bassist Will Palmer to create an album worthy of standing next to Angel Witch.
Producer Jaime Gomez Arellano (Ghost, The Gates Of Slumber) helmed the recording of As Above, So Below helping Angel Witch maintain its unique signature sound. The album contains eight tracks; a mix of new material and unreleased classic material from the band’s early years. Kicking off the event is “Dead Sea Scrolls”, a track that dates back to 1983/84 in that span between the band’s debut and sophomore albums. The song launches into a crunchy gallop with stealthy bass work from Palmer, and mammoth drum work from Prestidge. The verse riff actually recalls Dave Meniketti and Y&T, while the intro and outro remind one a bit of Saxon.
“Into The Dark” takes the listener back even farther to the band’s late 70s live performances. There is a very groove oriented feel to this one that melds with the re-invention of metal’s ‘then’ new British sound. Heybourne wails on the track’s fiery solo.
With “Geburah” we get to the first of Heybourne’s newest compositions. It’s clear he hasn’t lost his ability to reinvigorate the classic Angel Witch sound. Nice guitar harmonies which Bill Steer (Carcass, Firebird, Gentleman’s Pistols) will help Heybourne bring to life in a live setting. This track could quite readily have fit on the band’s 1980 debut along with “Gorgon” and “Angel Witch”.
“The Horla” is another new track. A slow plodding number; the precursor to what became 80’s hair metal ballads. At seven-and-a-half minutes it’s the longest track on the album. About four minutes in the pace picks up leading us to a full on sonic rampage. This track showcases the virtuosity of the individual band member at their respective instruments.
“Witching Hour” again takes us back to the early 80s, with a riff that recalls Accept‘s “Restless and Wild”. A catchy melody with a nice mid-tempo pace.
An ominous foreboding intro leads into “Upon This Cord” which at times is oddly discordant. More great guitar work here, and Prestidge keeps it all driving at a frenetic pace.
One of the album’s finer and more memorable tracks comes in the form of “Guillotine” the second of the pre-debut album tracks. A Monster riff and catchy melody, make one wonder why it didn’t appear on the debut record.
Closing it all out is the last of the new songs, “Brainwashed”, the second seven-minute-plus song on the record. This one recalls something of Iron Maiden, but is certainly more dark, brooding and edgy.
If there is a complaint about this record its that the sound feels thin in places, even tinny at times. Then again that was a trademark of the early NWOBHM sound. So in that regard Arellano has done the era justice by recapturing that raw production.
In all, Angel Witch has re-birthed itself with As Above, So Below. Perhaps the band will get a shot at redemption here. If you love the classic NWOBHM sound, or were a fan of Angel Witch’s debut opus, you’ll have a fine time scrambling your grey matter with this record.