Beaming down on heavy metal
Sometimes, a band has worked its way into your mind without you even knowing it. Usually, it comes from a band’s sheer influence getting lost in translation after years and years of genre building and replication, though diehards and music historians are equipped with the right knowledge. Angel Witch contributed heavily to the foundations of NWoBHM—especially with their self-titled debut—though there were some considerable bumps along the way that kept their release output more sporadic than consistent, like contemporaries Iron Maiden, for instance. Regardless, Angel Witch undoubtedly hold that legendary title. They managed to give us another release just before the decade closes out but, with about four decades already under their belt, does the newest Angel of Light live up? It does, in ways that even a NWoBHM novice can recognize and appreciate.
It starts with the fact that founder and original frontman Kevin Heybourne locked down a solid lineup of musicians, which was a problem that’s hit Angel Witch in the past. Fellow guitarist Jimmy Martin, bassist Will Palmer and drummer Fredrik Jansson-Punkka fell into the Angel Witch’s proper place. Opener “Don’t Turn Your Back” recalls AW circa 1980—it’s driving tempo and high paced verve produce sheer headbangability. That carries on into “Death from Andromeda,” which takes the best of old and new AW sentiments by showcasing that Heybourne has still got it, and they all can keep up with him.
Then, tracks like “The Night is Calling” and “I Am Infamy” border more on doom than their usual heavy licks. At times they boom with incredible force and at others, are a bit more melodic, but it all works. What Angel Witch seem to mildly miss the mark on though is their editing process. Some songs could’ve used just a little refining, like “We Are Damned” and “Condemned,” which could’ve been trimmed to maintain their actual power. Still, they’re both great songs but could’ve been greater with some tightening up.
With Angel of Light, Angel Witch is letting the heavy metal world know they’re still here, and they can still manifest riffs and rhythms that’ll last. Even though they only drop an album about twice a decade, it’s good we got this one. It’ll hold up.