Album of the Week 11-2012: Angel Witch – As Above, So Below


Go ahead. Pretend like the last thirty years have never happened. Angel Witch did just that for their brand new album ‘As Above, So Below’ – only their fourth studio album in 35 years of existence – and I commend them for that. Even the production is pretty old-fashioned, with its warm analog sound and untriggered drums. Kevin Heybourne has finally gotten his shit back together after years of being plagued by record industry torture and as a result, he’s written a classic Heavy Metal record which sounds like it’s from the late seventies, when the schism between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal wasn’t all that strict.

That isn’t to say that Heybourne did a complete rewrite from the legendary self-titled debut from 1980. Gone are the Queen-ish choirs that decorated many of the choruses on that album and the songs on ‘As Above, So Below’ are remarkably less accessible than the majority of the songs on ‘Angel Witch’. However, Kevin Heybourne’s voice has aged very well and his riffs and melodies are just about as NWOBHM as it gets. This is solid Heavy Metal, the way it’s meant to be.

Opening the album is the downright brilliant ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’. This song sets the bar for the rest of the album. Brilliant twin guitars, powerful riffs, moving vocals and the strong rhythm section consisting of bassist Will Palmer and drummer Andrew Prestidge make ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ a delight to any NWOBHM-fan. Heybourne’s vocals are an immediately recognizable factor; they have hardly changed since ‘Angel Witch’ and what he lacks in technique he makes up for in passion. His guitar solos aren’t of the finger blisteringly fast category, but they’re powerful and passionate, they fit the music as a whole.

Angel Witch hasn’t cut back on song lengths on this album; with no songs being shorter than five minutes and only three (‘Into The Dark’, ‘Ceburah’ and ‘Witching Hour’) under six, the music on ‘As Above, So Below’ is as epic as Kirk Windstein’s beard. Heybourne has obviously put a lot of effort in these songs, as all of them stay interesting throughout any second they last. In fact, had I not read that the marvellous closing track ‘Brainwashed’ was over seven minutes, I wouldn’t have noticed.

On the Metal Blade website, I read that four of the eight songs on the album date back to the early eighties and even the late seventies, among which ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ and the frantically galloping ‘Witching Hour’. However, these tracks don’t necessarily stand out on the album, as the basic style throughout the album is constant. Angel Witch has always been named in one breath with Iron Maiden and although I can hear the resemblance still, I can hear a lot of (mainly ‘The Eternal Idol’-era) Black Sabbath. The general structure and powerful outbursts on ‘The Horla’ even remind me of the title track of that album directly. But although these influences are there, Angel Witch definitely has a recognizable sound of its own that is melodic, epic and powerful.

For those of you who gave up on Angel Witch after their fantastic debut: they’re back. This album is a must for any NWOBHM-fan. Finally there’s a band that feeds both nostalgia and a lust for quality contemporary music. ‘As Above, So Below’ grants you both. I just hope their reign will be a little longer than it was back in their heyday this time. Go check this out when you have the chance!

Recommended tracks: ‘Brainwashed’, ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’, ‘Witching Hour’

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