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Angel Witch - As Above, So Below Review

by Matt Hensch

So it took like twenty-six years for Angel Witch to finally produce a new record since the release of "Frontal Assault" back in 1986. Having lived and died the life of a normal band countless times, Kevin Heybourne's quest to make Angel Witch a relevant force in the realm of rock/metal yielded a worthy legacy filled with an untold amount of inspiration and influence despite the group's primordial lack of commercial success. The efforts of Heybourne and company remain consistent to what Angel Witch has always represented in its twisting lifespan, and one can easily tell Angel Witch is still Angel Witch when looking beyond the chasm of elapsed time since new material. In terms of content, the album is a sturdy return to form; nothing exceptionally magnificent or riveting, but definitely a fine addition to the Angel Witch biography several years after the squad went mute.

The primary strength of the album is its overall representation of not just itself, but Angel Witch as well. Beyond all the labyrinthine structures and enthralling bridges prowling through tunes typically geared right down the path of NWOBHM, Angel Witch remains true to itself. No weird experiments, no useless influences, no frills or preservatives; just Heybourne naturally doing his thing. The eight tunes all follow the group's desirable equation of catchy, mythical metal, giving the listener a chance to stand inside the eyes of a youth back in 1980 as they study the speedy riff that opened the cult's debut; it has that regressive taste to it, although it naturally feels mature and definitely fitting for Angel Witch's age. Not perfectly cooked or represented, yet it retains its substance with little avail.

Heybourne's voice is really fresh and vibrant considering the monumental gap between records and his age, plus the sound quality truly brings back an old-school vibe. The best songs are "Dead Sea Scrolls" and "Brainwashed," which open and close out the album; rivers and rivers of great guitar work ebb and flow from Heybourne's fantastic playing, a true portrait of NWOBHM-ish material in 2012. Some nice melodies and riffs emerge from the fast-paced "Gebura," and "Witching Hour" just kills. A handful of spells are a little more on the novice side of things, however: "Guillotine" has a really lame chorus compared to most of the anthems, and "The Horla" tends to drag on without justifying its lengthy running time. Otherwise, "As Above, So Below" is a winner of a release.

Some say (and frequently with good reason) that aged factions should not attempt new material, but I see no problem in "As Above, So Below." Released at a time when reunion tours and albums ruled the day, the record is an appropriate addition to Heybourne's accomplishments and a sturdy source of power within Angel Witch, a clan that never caught its fire back in the day and has lived mostly in seclusion and mystery. Expecting something on par with the self-titled album would be a little much, but fans of the band will no doubt cherish "As Above, So Below" as a warm, fruitful endeavor which excellently portrays the mysticism and might of Angel Witch.

Angel Witch - As Above, So Below


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