Angel Witch - Angel Witch
Sanctuary
NWOBHM
10 songs (38'19)
Release year: 1980
Sanctuary
Reviewed by Olivier

Iron Maiden legend Steve Harris himself once admitted in an interview Angel Witch was his favourite band, back in the days. That it had been a band with great potential, and that one of the main reasons it never met his own band's success was amateurish management (frontman Kevin Heybourne's father occupied the manager position at the time). Whether this is a truth or not matters little. What's important is, the band has only released four studio albums in thirty years, and that is one of the greatest shames in metal history. The three more recent being, moreover, nowhere near matching the masterpiece the self-titled first album is.

It kicks off with what can arguably be considered "The" NWOBHM anthem. Angel Witch is the song everybody has heard, often without even knowing the band. For it probably is the most accessible NWOBHM song ever made, or at the very least one of the most accessible. It has everything: a killer main riff, an outrageously simple and joy-bringing chorus, it's perfect to be introduced to the genre and it's a perfect live show song. However, it would take you to be a fool to reduce Angel Witch's self-titled album to Angel Witch's self-titled track. This, is just the hors d'oeuvre. Atlantis, a song about the impending rise of the mythical underwater city, ravishes you with rather loud and unchained guitar riffs and a threatening atmosphere. Confused is for that matter another great song in the same vein, only sightly slower-paced. But the gloomiest track really would be Sorceress, here. It starts with the same kind of eerie touch you find in the first minute of Iron Maiden's Remember Tomorrow, suddenly mixed with a Black Sabbath reminiscent loud doom flow. And then, from out of nowhere... madness. Heybourne yells, guys step up the pace a notch, guitars storm all over the place and let an organ finish you off, leaving a taste of insanity in your mouth. Jaw-dropping, and brilliant.

But less disturbing pieces are also featuring in this classic. The third track White Witch - another classic of the band -, deals with a revenge-seeking witch. The guitar here often sounds thinner, and somehow manages to make you picture this white witch and the occurring events. Sweet Danger, another track meant to be a single (but which only could reach top 75 of UK charts for a single week, before disappearing) is quicker-paced, lighthearted and succeeds in throwing your fists up the air. It leads to Free Man, a deliciously bittersweet ballad. While there is nothing groundbreaking in this one - even for its time -, it features a very powerful chorus that makes your hands clench into fists. It is as I said: deliciously bittersweet. And then finally the last song appears (Angel of Death), just before the outro Devil's Tower. Angel of Death is easily the most threatening, dark and heavy song on this album. It constantly alternates between a menacing riff which would be a perfect fit for an old school horror film, and a more reassuring riff which gives you a false sense of safety. Yet another touch of utter excellence in this album.

Angel Witch is the album everybody knows, or should know. Another hint on why this album is a classic is the number of times it was re-issued. In 1990, Roadrunner Records re-issues it and includes 3 bonus tracks (Loser, Suffer and Dr. Phibes, three nice additions, especially Dr. Phibes). The 2000 re-issue (Castle Records) included 16 tracks (the original 10, the 3 bonus tracks from the 1990 re-issue, and 3 more: Flight Nineteen, Baphomet and Hades Paradise. Again, those 3 good songs). The "25th anniversary expanded edition" (2005, Castle Records again at the time, but Sanctuary nowadays) adds to the deal radio sessions of Sweet Danger, Angel of Death, Extermination Day and of course, Angel Witch. And, last but not least, the 30th anniversary edition (2010, Sanctuary) is a 2-CD release including a total of 30 songs (the original ten, plus demos, live versions and B-sides). How 'bout that...

So whoever you are, a nostalgic or a newcomer... it's up to you to be in for a treat.

You're an Angel Witch, you're an Angel Witch! (Youtube)

Killing Songs :
Except maybe Gorgon, they all are.
Olivier quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Angel Witch that we have reviewed:
Angel Witch - As Above, So Below reviewed by Stefan and quoted 81 / 100
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