Released: 2012, Metal Blade Records
Nobody questions Angel Witch’s stunning debut and its place in the elite of NWOBHM albums. However, 1980 was 32 years ago and as most metal fans concede, the band never came close to equaling the debut, wisely disbanding after a few mediocre mid 80’s albums. Predictably, once a few NWOBHM style revival bands appear on the landscape it becomes time to try and recapture some fading glory and maybe cash in at the same time. Yeah, this sounds a bit cynical but it is the nature of music in this new millennium, as Metallica’s DEATH MAGNETIC perfectly represents these old bands’ disingenuous grabs for what is once again acceptable thanks to revival movements.
On the other hand, you can argue Angel Witch did not like where their legacy ended and have sought to follow up the debut with a respectable album. Heybourne was actually recovering from surgery, out of work, and walking the old streets and drinking at the same old pubs as back in the day. Not surprisingly, he was listening to the same old album and thus the idea for reforming Angle Witch was born. AS ABOVE SO BELOW is in fact a respectable album, with four of the tracks being archival vault “lost” tracks and four new tunes as well. Even the die-hard Angel Witch fan might have a hard time telling the difference. The band opens with one of the old tunes, “Dead Sea Scrolls” and immediately signals just how far into nostalgia this album is going to be, as the production values more or less mimic those early 80’s NWOBHM albums. Galloping rhythms, mid-paced tunes, and worthy, if not exactly awe-inspiring riffs color the album from start to finish. Vocally, Heybourne sounds quite good and his guitar solos are more than decent. Of the new tunes, dark semi-ballad “The Horla” leads the bunch while the predictably NWOBHM-is title “Witching Hour” leads the old songs.
As I said, plenty of respectable and worthy stuff on here but delivered without much fire or sense of excitement, a true product of an old and tired band. Nothing new or unexpected is attempted either, which can be both good and bad. These songs lack the “fire” that is needed to carry them beyond just ordinary, and with every one over 5 minutes, most wear out their welcome before the song ends. However, there is no denying the vibe of that important and classic era of metal on this album that spawned so many great bands that still continue today, like Iron Maiden, and inspired the founding thrash metal bands. AS ABOVE SO BELOW will serve as a welcome trip down memory lain for fans of that era and even new fans that enjoy the revival bands will appreciate Angel Witch’s latest. More recent metal fans that are unfamiliar with the NWOBHM will find that the new album sounds rather primitive and rightly classify it as part of the Stone Age from which it came.