Sunday Old School: Doom Metal Pioneers Witchfinder General
Sometimes in the world of heavy metal and hard rock music, one band can prove to be a major influence on hundreds, if not thousands of future fans of the genre. We have already seen how this is true when we looked at Geordie noise merchants Venom and the influence they had on black metal, so now shall we see how another band from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement would make their mark, this time on the doom metal genre. The band in question is Witchfinder General, who, like many other heavy British bands before them, including Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, came from the Midlands area of England. The group was founded in 1979 by the duo of Zeeb Parkes (vocals) and guitarist Phil Cope and settled on the name Witchfinder General, which they got from the classic Vincent Price movie. Before long the lineup was completed when the pair recruited Cope's cousin Steve Kinsell on drums and bass player Toss McCready. After writing material, the band released their first single in 1981 entitled, "Burning A Sinner" (sometimes jokingly reffered to as "Burning A Singer") through Heavy Metal Records. The next year, the group released an EP entitled, "Soviet Invasion," which while only featuring three songs (one of which was a live track,) clocked in at thirty minutes long.
The next step for the band was to release a full length album, which was finally unleashed in 1982. The album was entitled, "Death Penalty" and immediately became notorious as a result of it's album cover, which featured topless model Joanne Latham with hooded figures in the yard of a church in Enville, Staffordshire and had not been approved, nor even granted permission to be taken, by the church's reverend. Despite the controversy however, the album received positive reviews and has since gone on to be recognised as a true classic in the doom metal genre. A second album would follow the next year, in the form of "Friends Of Hell." Once again, the album contained a controversial front cover, with the band posing with semi-naked models in front of a church. However, the controversy had proved less beneficial than "Death Penalty," with some seeing it as almost a parody of themselves. The album itself received some backlash from fans for attempting to expand the group's fanbase to a more mainstream audience with the single, "Music," which ultimately failed to achieve it's primary goal. After being unable to grow the way they had wanted to and the band called it a day in 1984.
Like many New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands however, they eventually returned to the music scene, although this time without vocalist Zeeb Parkes. They announced teir reformation in Novemeber 2006, with Cope bringing back bass player Rod Hawkes, who had played on the "Friends Of Hell"record and drummer Dermot Redmond, who had joined the band after the second album's release, along with new member in the form vocalist Gary Martin. The band's first move as a regrouped unit came the next year when they released a compilation entitled, "Buried Amongst The Ruins," which featured both the A and B-Side to the "Burning A Sinner" single, the "Soviet Invasion" EP and four live tracks, among which was a live version of a previously unreleased song entitled, "Phantasmagorical." In 2008, the band released their first album of all new material in twenty five years entitled, "Resurrected." Though the band has repeatedly stated they will not perform live again, the possibility of another album could well come true and their influence and mark on the doom metal genre cannot, and nor should it be, ignored or overlooked.
Witchfinder General - Burning A Sinner
Witchfinder General - Death Penalty
Witchfinder General - Quietus Reprise
Witchfinder General - Music
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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