Forever linked to the NWoBHM by the exigencies of journalistic laziness, there was actually quite a bit more to the music of Chesterfield natives Witchfynde, who’s debut album, the excellent Give Em Hell finds itself as the latest in High Roller‘s seemingly endless series of vintage metal reissues.
Released slap bang in the middle of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, there are elements of Witchfynde’s music that do indeed sit well alongside more august contemporary names like Angel Witch or the Tygers of Pan Tang. But there was also an ambition and talent that perhaps put them more in line with more progressive names like Diamond Head or Hell. They could certainly shift when they wanted to – but for every slice of Priest-lite like opener Ready to Roll there were more mystically-inclined tracks like Leaving Nadir or the superbly meandering Unto The Ages of the Ages; And if the band flirted with satanic imagery on the title track, it was done in the classic British Hammer Horror style rather than the hack n’slash proto death metal of the band’s American or European counterparts. So much so in fact, that Kerrang! magazine, the Anglo Saxon chronicle of the latter days of the NWoBHM, was prompted to refer to them as ‘Satan’s Milkmen’ in reference to the day job of guitarist Montalo…
In many way’s Witchfynde’s story was that of so many bands of their ilk and time. Far more accomplished than many of their counterparts, their career foundered, stymied by too many bad deals and too much bad advice, and a press in their homeland that wasn’t as supportive to them as some of their better situated (IE London-based) counterparts. But revisiting this album in 2021 one is struck by just how great it sounds; Steve Bridges‘ voice was head and shoulders above a fair portion of the opposition, handling sleazy pub rock like Pay Now – Love Later with a lascivious ease that matched the steely-eyed madness of his delivery on the title track. Montalo proves himself a capable and versatile guitarist, hampered slightly by a lack of heft in the production department by modern standards but always worth listening to none the less, whilst Gra Scoresby and Andro Coulton were a rhythm section that could hold it’s own with any of the opposition – and I’m including the biggest names of the NWoBHM here.
Some of the material sounds a little naive when listened to through a modern filter (The Divine Victim), and some of the ideas just aren’t explored as well as they may have been given more time and studio expertise (Tetelestai), but that doesn’t detract from the fact that overall Give Em Hell has stood the test of time remarkably well. Give it a go at your earliest convenience.
Give Em Hell releases on July 30th.