Can it really be almost 40 years ago that we were all unceremoniously informed “You’re an Angel Witch…You’re an Angel Witch”? First by way of a 7” with ‘Gorgon’ on the flip-side, then on the ground-breaking genre-defining NWOBHM classic LP of the same title, all way back in 1980, setting Angel Witch up to be one of the front-runners of the whole British Heavy Metal emergence. Then of course, for one reason or another it just didn’t happen for them. And it’s already five years since that widely applauded and critically acclaimed come-back album “As Above, So Below”, which balanced just enough of the past with the right amount of the present. Where does the time go?
Angel Witch in their various guises are basically founding guitarist/vocalist Kevin Heybourne with a revolving door of other band members over the years, but bassist Will Palmer has been retained from the “As Above…” line-up with the addition of a second guitarist Jimmy Martin to round out the sound, plus Swedish drummer Fredrik Jansson Punkka (who some might know from his time in Witchcraft and Noctum). And as one glance at the epic cover art will re-affirm “Angel Of Light” continues nicely where its predecessor left off. At this moment, it would be the perfect time for you to take the opportunity to read Gizmo’s excellent review of that album elsewhere on Ave Noctum (if you haven’t already), a review I totally concur with and one that really sets the scene for this release. All done? Excellent, thank you, that’s saved me a shit-load of work…so back to the present!
The excellent attention-grabbing energetic up-tempo opener ‘Don’t Turn Your Back’ initially caught me slightly off guard, harking right back to that iconic debut injected with their updated approach, but as the album continues, Angel Witch’s penchant for the darker, doomier side of Metal soon starts to shine through once more. Riffs are the key to an Angel Witch track – there is always a wealth of them and there are some absolute belters throughout “Angel Of Light”, rooting each song, steering them on their natural path. The addition of Punkka on the kit seems to have lent a hint more gravitas and power to the back-line too, driving the songs forward with utter conviction. Crowning it all, Kevin Heybourne’s lyrics and vocal lines are obviously still delivered in his own inimitable way, utilising his distinctive, slightly relaxed early/mid 80’s British-style delivery to great effect once more.
There’s a lot of atmosphere going on here – at times a dark malevolent atmosphere. Tracks like ‘Window of Despair’, ‘Death From Andromeda’ and the closing title track stalk around the speakers with an unpredictable scowl, you’re never quite certain how they’ll act – whether they’ll remain quietly aggressive yet stable, or if they’ll suddenly turn and bite. Others like ‘The Night Is Calling’ ramp up that familiar Doom side of the band to the optimum – and yet through it all, Angel Witch still remain utterly Angel Witch – you forget how quite unique Angel Witch really are until you hear them once more! It’s no coincidence that any comparisons are centred around the debut and “As Above…”, due to Heybourne being the driving force and up front on those two, meaning that when presented with a new Angel Witch release there isn’t that much to compare it to, much better to just sit back and relish in it – after all, they don’t come around that often. So in the end the easiest, most informative thing to do is quite simply and rather predictably to state that if you liked that debut, and enjoyed “As Above…” it’s a hell of a safe bet you’re going to love this one!
(8.5/10 Andy Barker)