Angel Witch – As Above, So Below
1. Dead Sea Scrolls
2. Into the Dark
4. The Horla
5. Witching Hour
6. Upon This Cord
Metal Blade/Rise Above Records
Admittedly, I haven’t been an Angel Witch fan for very long. It was only a few years ago that I learned of Angel Witch and their debut 1980 self-titled album. I was hooked from first listen. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to that album, but it has got to be well over a hundred times since then. Being the metal-phile that I am, I looked into the rest of their catalog and found their 1985 album Screamin’ and Bleedin’ and 1988’s Frontal Assault. What I found about these two albums was that I really didn’t care for them that much. While they are both solid albums, the vocals of David Tatum did not compliment the music as did Kevin Heybourne’s. Needless to say, when I heard that Angel Witch would be recording a new album with Heybourne back on lead vocals, I was excited. Although the line-up of the band is not nearly the same as it was 32 years ago, the anchor of the band has always been Kevin Heybourne and essentially the band still sounds like the Angel Witch from three decades ago.
As Above, So Below is a nice return to form and is reminiscent of their sound during the NWOBHM. Among the 8 tracks are four that were written back before 1984 and four newly penned tracks. You wouldn’t know it though, because every track sounds like it was written back in their classic era. As Above, So Below should be well received by fans, to say the least. While having a slightly cleaner and crisp production, the new album still has a retro feel to it. In all honesty, Kevin Heybourne may not be a really great/talented singer, but he simply has a very distinct voice and vocal style that works well for the band and their sound. I know that might certainly sound like a back-handed compliment, but it is not intended as such and I apologize if that is how it is conveyed in this text. However, despite my previous comment, Heybourne’s voice still sounds very good and young for a man that might be out of practice and in a time when age should be taking its toll.
The guitar tone and drums sound very organic as if it was 1980 all over again and that is exactly what Angel Witch was going for. The presser from Metal Blade states that this was all part of the plan, as you can see below.
Angel Witch would be reformed – only this time, they would sound like they were intended to almost 30 years before: No more trying to assimilate to the musical climate around him, no more trying to keep up with fashion. Angel Witch would go back to the genesis moment, the Big Bang. 1979 revisited and damn the consequences.
That is one of the great things about metal. While some bands try so hard to evolve into something more modern, other bands realize that despite the pressure that they may have gotten from record labels back then, that they should have never changed their sound. The same labels that pressured these bands and later drop them when record sales plummeted due to non-acceptance from fans, are at fault for killing their own product. We as fans yearn for classic sounding albums–albums that don’t compromise the band’s integrity in order to try to appeal to a new fan base. There is nothing more important than honesty in music and it works both ways. If a band’s taste changes and they decide to go into a different direction on their own accord, then we should support them. We may not approve, but we as fans should respect their decision. If they go into a new direction to appeal to the masses and not the fans that helped put them on the map, then fuck’em. Kevin Heybourne decided that if Angel Witch was to be again, then they would be what they were back when they started.
As Above, So Below, while having a cleaner, more crisp production as I stated in the beginning, still has the raw and honest sound of the late 70’s, early 80’s. No fancy drum trigger sounds, no solid-state sounding distortion or extensive vocal effects. The drums sound real, the guitars sound like a nice warm overdriven tube amp and the vocals might have a bit of reverb or blended into the mix. The bass is there, though not too evident.. Speaking of the mix, everything sounds so neatly blended so as no single instrument sounds louder than any other.
The only viable compaint that one might have about the album is that the songs do not contain super-catchy choruses as that of their self-titled. However, that does not take anything away from the album. If you’re a fan of Angel Witch and wanted an Angel Witch album that sounds like a solid extension or follow up to their self-titled debut album, then As Above, So Below is the album for you. You’ll enjoy it through and through. If you’re a fan of the David Tattum vocal era of Angel Witch and not so much a fan of their self-titled album…then there is just something wrong with you and I don’t know what the hell to tell you.
As Above, So Below was released last week, March 27th on Metal Blade Records in the US. You can order a vinyl version from the other side of the pond either from Rise Above Records or from Nuclear Blast. Whichever way you want it, get it. You won’t be disappointed either way.