Over the years Kevin Heybourne has resurrected NWOBHM legends Angel Witch numerous times with various lineups, usually for the purpose of performing at the European festival circuit. To acquire any new or unreleased material from the band you really would had to have known someone who knows someone. (I did just that coming across the rarely referred to “Halloween” demo from 2000 further reaffirming Heybourne’s metallic songwriting genius) When it was announced that Angel Witch would be releasing a new full length studio album my anticipation level was extremely high. So high you’d have to wager that I’d only be setting myself up for disappointment if the album didn’t meet my near impossible level of expectations. Luckily for me (and all Angel Witch fans) “As Above, So Below” delivers on all fronts. With it’s eerie yet melodic and bombastic delivery and lyrics involving macabre mythology and witchcraft; this is in essence a perfect Angel Witch album. All of the elements of what makes Angel Witch such a killer metal band are on tap. A perfect companion to the self-titled debut and an absolutely essential release from 2012.
2. Skelator – Agents Of Power
Never judge a book by it’s cover (Should be my new motto). I’ll admit that when this CD arrived in my mailbox it collected dust for a good several weeks before giving it a chance. The initial prospect of reviewing a band that named themselves after the arch nemesis of “He-Man” just didn’t seem to incredibly appealing at the time. Sometime around mid August I had to make a ninety-minute drive to see Iron Maiden in San Antonio and I dusted off my Skelator CD and popped it into my truck’s stereo. I was amazed at what I heard. This wasn’t a crappy pseudo black metal band. This wasn’t crappy retro thrash. This wasn’t some mish-mosh of a bunch of crappy rehashed garbage that would constitute something akin to Three Inches Of Blood. No, this…this my friends… was a killer heavy metal album. An extremely well crafted concept album centered around Michael Moorecock’s “Elric The Kinslayer” character. The tunes flow together effortlessly and are best enjoyed as a whole. Equal parts NWOBHM and early American speed metal make this a must have for traditional metal collectors.
3. Accept – Stalingrad
4. Manowar – Lord Of Steel
5. Brute Forcz – Out For Blood
6. Kreator – Phantom Antichrist
7. Destruction – Spiritual Genocide
8. Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force- Spellbound
9. Candlemass – Psalms For The Dead
10. Primal Fear – Unbreakable
11. Overkill – The Electric Age
12. Marduk – Serpent Sermon
13. KISS – Monster
14. Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Ascending To Infinity
15. Power Theory – An Axe To Grind
16. Ignitor – Year Of The Metal Tiger
17. Huntress – Spell Eater
18. Cannibal Corpse – Torture
19. Heretic – A Time Of Crisis
20. I AM I – Event Horizon
Best New Metal Band – Brute Forcz
Brute Forcz made my “Best Of” list last year with their debut EP “Kick Ass Heavy Metal”. They returned this past October with a brand new full length “Out For Blood” that’s jam packed full of songs about fucking and fighting, musically falling somewhere between “Shout At The Devil” era Motley Crue meets early Motorhead with Cronos from Venom on vocals. These guys are bad to the bone and highly recommended.
Best Metal EP/MCD – KAOS – “Validated In Blood”
Oakland, California’s KAOS have been releasing quality neck breaking thrash metal since 1987. “Validated In Blood” as it would turn out, serves as the band’s final release and swansong as the band recently announced that they would be calling it a day after twenty five years in the game. Having said that, KAOS go out on a much deserved high note with this five song release and will be undoubtedly missed.
Best Metal Reissue – Death – “Spiritual Healing”
Relapse Records really knocked the ball out of the park with their “Spiritual Healing” reissue, complete with a bonus disc of rare band rehearsals, a second bonus disc featuring a full concert from 1990, complete with deluxe packaging featuring expanded artwork, photos and liner notes. Let the metal flow!
Best Live Album – Saxon “Heavy Metal Thunder – Live – Eagles Over Wacken”
Now this is what I’m talking about. Two CD’s chock full of all of your favorite Saxon classics with an accompanying DVD featuring the “best of” Saxon’s many performances at the Wacken Open Air Festival throughout the years. I spent the better part of my free time over the holidays enjoying this 3 Disc set and really could not have asked for a better live album to enjoy the final days of 2012 with.
Best DVD/Blu-Ray – Steel Panther – “British Invasion”
The badboys of XXX-rated slapstick glam metal otherwise known as Steel Panther definitively capture their British invasion with this side splitting DVD release. The humor is raunchy and the laughs a plenty like a director’s cut of “This Is Spinal Tap” (if Andrew “Dice” Clay was the director)
Best Metal Movie – “Metal Messiah: Born Again Sage”
Depending on where you live or perhaps your circle of friends, you may have already enjoyed a screening or two of one of 2012’s best kept secrets of the underground “Metal Messiah: Born Again Sage”. This low budget indie flick is both captivating and highly enjoyable and comprised of the type of humor and storyline that only a dyed-in-the-wool headbanger could appreciate, with a kickass soundtrack to boot!
Best Metal Concert Attended In 2012
“Teutonic Terror Attack Tour” with co-headliners Accept and Kreator. Having two German metal legends on a co-headlining bill made for the best heavy metal party of the year. We banged our heads. We sang along to nearly every song. We probably had way too many beers with our friends… but who’s counting? This kind of billing only comes across every so often and it was the kind of tour I’m sure we’ll all be nostalgically talking about for quite some time.
Greatest Metal Hopes For 2013
Can we finally get a Lost Horizon reunion where Daniel Heiman and Wojtek Lisicki are in the same lineup? The first two Lost Horizon albums still hold up to anything released since and really solidify how special this band was. More than any other hope for 2013 I’d like to see these guys get back together and release a third album.
It would be great if Angel Witch could finally gain admittance into the United States and tour in support of “As Above, So Below”. Seeing Angel Witch live is definitely on the ol’ bucket list for me and seeing as how they currently have the support of Metal Blade Records, now is as good time as ever to pursue such a venture. I’ve heard there may be some legalities involved in securing a working visa for Kevin Heybourne but let me tell you something “If Paul Di’Anno can do it, you can too!”
King Diamond resurfaced recently for some festival appearances. Hopefully that means we can all look forward to a new King Diamond album and tour (with full on stage show) and “Who knows?” maybe even some activity or future plans for Mercyful Fate. Wouldn’t that be something?
All eyes are set on Queensryche to deliver an album that not only successfully introduces Todd La Torre as the new heir to the throne but also makes us forget or overlook just how bad the last several albums from Queensryche have been. Having recently seen the band perform live with the new lineup, I think you have a pretty good shot at it!