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Village Hall Tomfoolery Part 1- Breasts and Sabbath,
This review is from: Death Penalty (Audio CD)
In my review of Iron Maiden's `Powerslave' I referred to most of the NWOBHM movement as village hall tomfoolery, now you can take this how you may, as an insult or a term of endearment. This DIY Englishness has always endeared these NWOBHM also-rans to me and in this what I expect to be long running series of reviews (although I don't doubt my own short attention span), I shall be looking at the plethora of NWOBHM bands that barely made it out of the village halls, indeed, some didn't.
Anyway, here's Witchfinder General the band who appeal to the small margin of people who think Black Sabbath are good, but ultimately aren't bad enough. Witchfinder General do just that, play traditional Sabbatharian metal but are slightly bad, albeit in a good way.
I must say I find Witchfinder General a touch overrated, sure there's lovely riffs smattered through `Death Penalty' and the art work is a glorious kitsch and voluptuous homage to my beloved Hammer Horror (although I do believe the actual film `Witchfinder General' was an Amicus production), but the band on the whole is let down by a couple of things. Firstly, the curiously named Zeeb Parkes is the archetypal wimpy NWOBHM vocalist, wavering out of key at times and generally he doesn't possess a particularly strong voice (say Ozzy did the same thing at your own peril, anyone who doubts Ozzy's vocal power in my presence is off the Christmas card list) . Also, the band aren't the greatest of composers or musicians which does hinder things slightly, as it leads to scrappy execution or awkward expression of ideas. Of course, this could be overlooked if band were better songwriters (for instance Diamond Head aren't the best players but they get away with it due to the resounding quality of their music on the debut).
This said, there are some corkers here. `Invisible Hate', despite sharing the same lyrical short comings as the rest of the album (the economy? Yeah, metal duder!) is a nice groovy number. The intro is a blatant aping of Black Sabbath's sombre acoustic passages, but nicely done. The midsection, again, borrows heavily from `War Pigs', namely the ominous section in which the root, fifth and minor seventh are picked, the guitars do pretty much the same thing here. The song descends into simple demands for beer, which is all fine and well, indeed, it's a nice little touch of my beloved Gumbied outlook on life. `Free Country' is a brilliant homage to all sorts of drugs, but thankfully maintains an anti-Heroin stance (Heroin isn't cool, ask Lemmy). The main riff is the bands best and has a nice pathos and urgency to it. In fact the guitars are the best thing about this release, Phil Cope isn't a genius but he does a good job at nearly nailing the early 70s Iommi vibe, as no one (our dear Lord exempt) can recreate that sound truly. `Death Penalty' is another strong song, the main riff is blatantly obvious, but all the better for it. I can't help but feel its lyrical content is better suited to the Conservative convention rather than a heavy metal release though.
`No Stayer' starts well, a early Sabbath styled jam (apparently these fellows have known to play the odd Sabbath vinyl!) but then descends into an abominably mediocre "Hey baby, I'll be gone when the morning comes" type rocker. Yeah great, you pulled, I'm sure she was dead impressed by the fact you sing for Witchfinder General, "Oh my sweet lord, Witchfinder General! I was going to get my bat cave serviced by David Coverdale, but you're a much more apt suitor!", those were her exact words. Anyway, it sucks harder than a toothless harlot. `Witchfinder General' could have been a classic but the vocals and syntax of the lyrics come across as awkward and a tad silly, for example;
`Oim the Witchfinder General!", it's full of drama, but comes across as more Adam Ant than Rob Halford. The guitar harmony section is quirky in all the wrong ways too.
`Death Penalty' is not a classic, but for a band who probably never made it further than Henley-On-Toast it's pretty good, a few stinky moments, but ultimately quite nice. If you want a slab of quirky Sabbath influenced NWOBHM you can't go far wrong. Or perhaps you think `Heaven and Hell' is a futuristic metal album and need a more Luddite friendly album.