Angel Witch – “Angel Of Light” (Metal Blade Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Forty years and more have passed since the blessed beginnings of Angel Witch, one of NWOBHM’s legends whose incredible self titled 1980 debut is forever bathed in undying glory. Arguably a victim of their early success, with endless line up changes and shifting sands regarding the band’s musical direction playing their part in start stopping Angel Witch’s career, stability at last came in 2012 following the release of their 4th album “As Above, As Below”, regarded by many as a significant return to the band’s early days and fan sought sound. Despite 7 years passing since, during which time founder guitarist vocalist Kevin Heybourne has kept the band busy with touring, “Angel Of Light” arrives as yet another illumination worthy of ample salutation. With the signature style of Heybourne’s high-ish but soulful vocals and that very distinct English metal sound still amply evident and indeed brought even more to life thanks to the huge but rich sound on the 8 tracks here, “Angel Of Light” delivers classic NWOBHM bliss using today’s technical modernity, together doing the band’s legacy fine justice. Heavily crunching in amid melodic beauty, the twin guitars of Heybourne and Jimmy Martin drive the true darkness meets light sound superbly on ‘We Are Damned’, interspersed by plenty of heavy headbanging passages brought in by the powering rhythm of Will Palmer’s bass and drummer Fredrik Jansson Punkka. Revisiting a lost ballad in ‘The Night Is Calling’, which previously existed only as a scarce bootlegged live version, the bridge between live and death is dramatically covered by the thick, almost over powering guitar sound, but ever so tenderly contrasted by the ghostly ambience in between as if brought back from the dead through Heybourne’s wails of ‘…I hear the voices…I hear them calling…’ and some truly soul stirring melancholic guitar melodies in a definite highlight of the album. Headbanging in unashamedly on ‘Window Of Despair’, the hook laden riffs are simply irresistible as the melodies flow in but not taking away any of the powering momentum that ceaselessly rocks this song from start to finish graced with an abundance of twin guitar work throughout. “Angel Of Light” is a top release in every regard, and commendably reflects an older but deeper Angel Witch, boldly and justifiably staking its own claim amongst today’s bands, many of whom owe their original influences to it.