Sunday Old School: Angel Witch
Although the most famous city in the United Kingdom, London itself hasn't seemed to have made a large contribution to heavy metal in the grand scheme of things. Of course, there was Iron Maiden, who were hailed as the leaders of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, but many of these movements bands came from the Midlands and the North of England, rather than the capital itself. That being said, there was another metal band from London during this era that would prove to be hugely inflential on young bands around the globe, from Celtic Frost to Metallica, namely Angel Witch.
The band was formed in 1977 and originally used the moniker Lucifer, but decided to change their name after parting with several members, leaving vocalist/guitarist Kevin Heybourne and guitarist Rob Downing. The two recruited bassist Kevin Riddles and drummer Dave Hogg but before long, Downing also made the decision to quit the band, leaving Angel Witch as a three piece outfit. They recorded a demo and quickly found some success in the metal mainstream, after their song, "Baphomet" was featured on the Metal For Muthas compilation. The attention the band received from the song led them to signing a record deal with major label EMI, though unfortunately the deal was cancelled soon afterwards as a result of manager Ken Heybourne refusing to hand the band over to professional management, along with the bad performance of their single "Sweet Danger," which stayed in the British Singles Chart for only one week.
The band was saved in 1980 however, when Bronze Records snapped them up, leading to the band recording their self-titled debut album and releasing it that same year. The album became a favourite amongst the heavy metal underground and has since gone on to be recognised as one of the best albums from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, easily on par with Iron Maiden's, "Killers" or Saxon's "Strong Arm Of The Law." Sadly, internal tensions became too much for the band not long after the record's release, leading to Dave Hogg being fired from the band and Kevin Riddles quitting to join the band Tytan. Though Heybourne tried to continue the band, he eventually accepted it's demise and joined the band Deep Machine, though he did briefly reform Angel Witch in 1982 with members of Deep Machine, only to disband the group once again the next year. The band was not to remain inactive for long however, as Heybourne once again resurrected the band in 1984, along with former drummer Hoggs. This lineup proved to be somewhat more stable, enough so that the band were finally able to record a second album, entitled, "Screamin' And Bleedin." Hoggs was once again sacked from the band not long after the record's release and was replaced by Spencer Hollman, with whom the band recorded a third album named, "Frontal Assault." This album proved unpopular with fans as it shifted away from the earlier Angel Witch sound, into more melodic territory. The band then made only sporadic live performances as a trio, eventually releasing a live album in 1989 simply entitled, "Live."
Frontman Kevin Heybourne then decided that the best thing for the band was to move to the United States, where they received more respect from metal fans, but was faced with a problem when none of the other members wanted to go, due to their stable lives in England. Heybourne decided to go ahead with the plan, moving to the United States and recruited musicians such as Exodus drummer Tom Hunting, Laaz Rockit bassist Jon Torres and Heathen guitarist Lee Altus, amongst others while he assembled the new unit. Unfortunately, immigration issues stopped the band from continuing and Heybourne was arrested the day before the band's first scheduled concert. The band remained inactive for a while after this escapade, but decided to have another shot as a band in England after releasing the compilation album, "Resurrection" in the year 2000. Once again, internal issues proved a problem for the band and Heybourne decided to continue with yet another batch of new musicians. Today the band still performs live and are cited as an influence by many of the bands from the thrash metal genre in the 1980s. Their self-titled song is still a favourite among many heavy metal fans, so much so that it appeared in the popular video game Brutal Legend, and their self-titled album will always be a monument to how important, radical and ground breaking the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was.
Angel Witch - "Angel Witch"
Angel Witch - "Baphomet"
Angel Witch - "Straight From Hell"
Angel Witch - "Waltz The Night"
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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