Review by Tymell for Angel Witch - Angel Witch (1980)
Angel Witch's debut is one of those albums where I keep having to remind myself of just how old it really is. Of course it has a vintage metal sound, but all the same it's way ahead of its time, belting out quality heavy metal song-writing like it's nothing. At a time when many bands were only just dipping their toes into the water, Angel Witch is here ironing out the timings on their synchronised swimming performance.
There's definitely a Sabbath-y darkness to the sound, but it's tempered with the emerging energy of speed metal, sparking and blitzing along through dark fantasy landscapes with wicked glee. That classic title track is a perfect example of all the band do so well: punkish rhythms from the thundering bass and percussion, while the vocals, full of falsetto and bold melody, are fresh out of classic rock, and the chorus readily flaunts a glam showmanship.
Showmanship is really the name of the game here, in the best way, so many tracks just clearly know exactly what they want to do and have no qualms about diving right into it. "Atlantis" makes fine use of a belting pace and grim bass rumble, proto-thrash with a wonderfully catchy chorus. Kevin Riddles' gorgeous bass work rears up again in "Angel of Death", driving forward that steady, irresistible march. "Devil's Tower" has ominous tones beneath flashy solo work, "Gorgon" erupts into molten fury after a deceptively soft intro, yet still keeps a rocking beat at the core. "Sorcerers" too starts gentler, but takes more of a doom-y route, and soars up into the stratosphere towards the end, helping to cement a foundational song structure that many future doom metal bands will make ample use of.
As all the above hopefully gets across, Angel Witch has great variety to offer: there's consistency, especially in a fantastical, D&D kind of fun darkness, but they know just when to switch up the pace and how to keep things catchy. The 70s were a formative decade for heavy metal, and Angel Witch sits proud as one of the albums that really marked its explosive birth in full. It's all here: the riffs, the vocals, the whole attitude. Angel Witch is both a culmination of what came before and a herald of what would follow.
Choice cuts: Angel Witch, Atlantis, Angel of Death, Sorcerers, Gorgon