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Sunday Old School: Witchfynde

It's been a while since we've dug into the vaults of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, the movement in the late seventies/early eighties that was credited with taking heavy metal and rock music away from the stadiums and back to the streets. While it gave the world such big names as Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard, it also contained a number of influential groups such as Venom, Raven and Witchfinder General, as well as some cult favourites like Tygers Of Pan Tang, Jaguar and Tank. This week we'll be looking at a band which probably belongs in the third category, who may not be the first name on everybody's lips when discussing the scene, but certainly rank up there as one of the heavy hitters, Witchfynde.

Witchfynde began life in 1973 either in the town of Mansfield, or the county of Derbyshire (sources differ,) the brainchild of schoolmates Richard Blower and Neil Harvey, who assumed the positions of bass player and vocalist respectively, before adding guitarist Trevor "Montalo" Taylor to the fold. Neither Blower or Harvey stayed for too long and by 1975, the lineup comprised of Montalo, bassist Andro Coulton, drummer Gra Scoresby and singer Steve Bridges. They slogged it out in the clubs for four years before they released their first single, "Give 'em Hell" in 1979, through Round Records, the only release from the company.

Following heavy airplay of the single by legendary DJ Tommy Vance on his BBC1 Friday Night Rock Show, the group signed with Rondelet Records and released a second single entitled, "In The Stars," before their debut full length, also named "Give 'em Hell" was released in 1980. The album received some excellent reviews and has been cited as a must have for followers of the NWOBHM by aficionados and has also been credited as one of the earliest influences of black metal due to its raw production. The album has promoted even more with a tour of the United Kingdom supporting Def Leppard, who themselves were promoting their debut album, "On Through The Night."

The band followed their debut by releasing another album in 1980, their sophomore studio effort, "Stagefright," as well as replacing Andro Coulton with Pete Surgey. The record has been claimed by fans to be Witchfynde's most experimental album, with the usual heavy metal affair being present, while the group also experimented with the indie sound and even a pop direction on the song, "Big Deal." These changes may have been a factor in the band's souring relationship with Rondelet, who lost interest and more or less cut their funding, before releasing the quartet from their contract, with vocalist Steve Bridges quitting soon after.

Soldiering on, Witchfynde recruited a new singer named Luther Beltz and finally released a new single in 1983 entitled, "I'd Rather Go Wild," before a new album, "Cloak and Dagger" followed the same year. The most noticeable difference from "Stagefright," aside from the singers, was the album cover, which displayed a detailed depiction of Heaven, Earth and Hell, all within an eye, as opposed to the somewhat cartoon like cover of their previous full length. Many fans were left unimpressed by the output however and even those who did enjoy it mostly admitted that there was little originality to be found.

Unfortunately, "Cloak and Dagger" was far from a success, suffering from poor production as well as their new record label, Expulsion going out of business. Needing a new home, Witchfynde signed with Mausoleum Records and released their fourth album, "Lords of Sin" in 1984, which the group were very proud of, despite some the scathing reviews by critics. A familiar scenario then occurred, when Mausoleum went out of business, leaving the band disillusioned with the music business and making the decision to call it a day.

In 1999, Witchfynde, like many of their contemporaries around the same time, made the decision to return to the stage, with former members Montalo, Gra and Luther feeling it was a good time to do so after a compilation album garnered a renewed interest in the band. They convinced Pete Surgey to return to the fold and began rehearsing, during which time Luther Beltz decided he wasn't interested anymore and was replaced by longtime fan Harry Harrison, fulfilling the dream of so many heavy metal fans. Harrison began touring with the group and in 2001, the reactivated rockers recorded and released their fifth album, "The Witching Hour."

"The Witching Hour" was received very well by fans, who felt that the re-recordings of older songs were tastefully done and paid a fitting tribute to their roots. It would be another seven years before their next offering however, when "Play It To Death" hit the shelves in 2008. By the end of the year however, Harrison sadly had to leave due to health concerns and Luther Beltz was brought back to the fold. Since then, the band has continued to play live, with recent years seeing them perform in such countries as Spain and Austria for the first time. Though new material appears unlikely, it's great to see these masters of metal are still out there and still kicking ass.

Witchfynde - "Give 'em Hell"

Witchfynde - "Stagefright"

Witchfynde - "Crystal Gazing"

Witchfynde - "Conspiracy"

Witchfynde - "Holy Ground"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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1 Comment on "Sunday Old School: Witchfynde"

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1. Drum_Junkie writes:

Never heard of these guys. Sound like DiamondHead in the early stuff or maybe DH sounded like these guys.

Good one OZ!

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