The obvious exceptions of IRON MAIDEN, SAXON and DEF LEPPARD aside, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal didn't produce much in the way of enduring heavy hitters. Righteous legends like DIAMOND HEAD and VENOM cashed in deserved credibility chips after the fact, of course, and if you don't listen to the first two TANK albums on a regular basis then you're simply doing music wrong, but beyond the aforementioned trio of titans, only ANGEL WITCH truly deserve to be regarded as game changers. That 1980 debut album, understandably overshadowed at the time by a dizzying slew of soon-to-be-immortal releases, remains one of the clear high points of that era, guitarist Kevin Heybourne's instinctive blend of dark, SABBATH-fueled menace and explosive, post-UFO turbo-rock leading to fantastic songs that have lost none of their edge or allure over the last 40 years. Admittedly, the song "Angel Witch" is neither remotely representative of what ANGEL WITCH do nor even vaguely close to being one of their best songs, but an anthem is an anthem, right?
When ANGEL WITCH returned to action in earnest for 2012's "As Above, So Below", it was plain that the band's unique sound and spirit were the entire motivating force behind this fresh incarnation. A few line-up shuffles later, the ANGEL WITCH showcased on "Angel of Light" sounds even closer to that original blueprint, with far weightier songs and a wonderfully vibrant and punchy production. Heybourne is plainly enjoying the opportunity to do this thing properly, accompanied by musicians that love his band as much as he does, and from the rampaging groove of opener "Don't Turn Your Back" onwards, the quartet's shared enthusiasm and self-evident chemistry are a constant delight.
Where most NWOBHM bands played souped-up pub rock that broke zero new ground, ANGEL WITCH still sound like a curious collision between darkness and light, as haunting but hard-as-nails epics like "Death from Andromeda" and the fabulously bluesy "The Night is Calling" attach syrupy doom riffs to a propulsive and timeless metallic undertow. "Window of Despair" casually nails the exact sound that hundreds of skinny-jeaned try hards have been desperately trying to emulate for the last 20 years. It's a galloping dirt-metal tour de force, malicious in intent but urgent and thrilling, with some of the finest riffs Heybourne has ever written. The closing title track is the best of the lot — seven minutes of glowering, moonlit malevolence. It's the sound of an exalted creative force discovering new ways to travel along a beloved but shadowy path. No need to mess with the formula: only ANGEL WITCH ever sounded like this anyway, and in 2019 their uniqueness is an invigorating blast of heavy metal air.