Witch Cross – Angel Of Death

Angel Of Death Album Cover Art
Angel Of Death Cover

Witch Cross – Angel Of Death
High Roller Records
Release Date: 11/06/2021
Running Time: 44.06
Review by Simon Black

Denmark’s Witch Cross are one of those veteran bands that have been treading the boards for a long time without ever achieving the same kind of reputation as country contemporaries like, most noticeably, Merciful Fate. Given that NWOBHM Retro is definitely in at the moment I was curious to see how these guys would play this out. This record screams early 80’s from every pore, managing to both musically feel and production-wise sound like it was of that era, so much so that I had to check that this was not a remaster of earlier material. In terms of capturing an ethos and sound, it’s absolutely spot on and full of NWOBHM twin guitars, with lots of early Priest style structures that really does feel like it’s from that period.

The title song opens well, with a good punch and classic Metal groove, with arrangements that sound like they fell straight out of the period. Lyrically too this is very classic NWOBHM fare of swords and/or sorcery. The second song ‘Marauders’ is a slower rocker and, unfortunately, rather plods along for its five minutes of run time. ‘Evil Eye’ is way shorter and much the stronger for it, with a more epic and expansive sound that takes it to the verge of Power Metal with the subtle keyboard overlays and its anthemic chorus – it’s one of the strongest tracks on here.

The trouble is the light buzzy guitar sound of the early 80’s that runs throughout this record was a symptom of the limits of that period’s recording technology or the experience of whoever was on the desk, with bands at the time always sounding fatter and heavier live, frequently sharing their frustration that the recording tech couldn’t capture that live sound when asked. That retro sound starts to wear very quickly in 2021 however and by the time I get to the mid-point ‘The Chosen One’ I was rather done with it. The Maidenesque ‘Phoenix Fire’ helps, as it brings the pace up again, proving, not for the first time, that the shorter songs work better. The one longer song that does work is ‘Siren’s Song’, which has one of the catchiest riffs I’ve heard in ages. I can see that one being a real crowd pleaser with its moody gotta-bang-along feel but with enough epic layering and some sparingly used choral vocal lines tucked away in the instrumental section.

Overall, this is a tricky one though, as there’s a fine line between bands trying to sound like the old analogue days and failing to show that they’ve moved on in the intervening years. I guess the challenge is that you can spend too long on the look and feel of a bygone age rather than on focusing on writing material that’s going to sound good after the next thirty years have passed. Newer bands seem better at balancing this, because more Modern Metal sounds are as much a part of their DNA as the ones, they’ve found in their parents’ vinyl shelves, but older bands sometimes struggle. With my 90’s amp and mixer plugged into my computer, I have the luxury of easily being able to turn the treble settings right down, fatten up the EQ and crank the volume and this immediately starts to sound so very much better, (it also sounds good in my headphones – Rick) but anyone listening on stream on a phone or through a smart speaker may not have that luxury. It really does spoil what would otherwise be a really strong album because the song-writing and performances are absolutely great. I’m sure I will probably love this live, but on the turntables, this feels like it’s been a little lost with an experiment in recreation of analogue in a digital world, rather than trying to build for the future.

‘Phoenix Fire’ (Official Video)

01. Tempus Mori Est
02. Angel Of Death
03. Marauders
04. Evil Eye
05. The Chosen One
06. Phoenix Fire
07. Siren’s Song
08. Eye Of The Storm
09. Last Rites
10. Warrior

Kevin Moore – Vocals
Paul Martin – Guitars
Mike Wlad – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Little John Field – Bass
Jesper Haugaard – Drums


Witch Cross Promo Pic
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