Witchfynde - Divine Victims - The Witchfynde Albums 1980-1983 [HNE Recordings Ltd/ Cherry Red - 2017]Witchfynde are one of the bands who rose to prominence during the heady days of the NWOBHM scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Alongside such luminaries as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Diamond Head, Witchfinder General and Venom, Witchfynde made a name for themselves through their brand of occult tinged heavy metal. The band were formed as early as 1973, recorded their first demo tape in 1975, and released their debut album, Give ‘Em Hell in 1980. This box set brings together that debut and the two albums that followed it, 1980s Stagefright, and 1983s Cloak and Dagger. All three have been lovingly remastered and expanded with bonus tracks, including a BBC Friday Rock Show session recorded for Tommy Vance in 1981.
Let’s begin at the start and kick things off with debut album, Give ‘Em Hell. The album opens with one of my favourite Witchfynde tracks, Ready to Roll. A classic slice of early NWOBHM, with catchy riffs and a memorable chorus. The first thing one notices is that the sound is crisp and clear for an album that was pretty low budget to begin with. It’s never sounded better and I think the remastering has done justice to the source material. The album comes into its own on the heavier, more up-tempo material. The title track in particular is a classic of the period, and along with material by Witchfinder General and Venom, represents the darker side of the NWOBHM scene.
Stagefright was released later in the same year, and saw a marked improvement in the band’s production. The song writing sounds to have matured and the band were heading in a markedly more commercial direction. There are still some classic slices of heavy metal on this second album though, Wake up Screaming, Moon Magic and the title track represent more of the same, but with a little extra crunch to the guitar riffs. Steve Bridges’ vocals, across these first two albums are a pleasure to behold, so much power and presence, they really add that little extra magic that sets Witchfynde apart from many of their rivals. Stagefright closes with that Friday Rock Show session, 4 tracks recorded in 1981, of which the real treat is the track Belfast, an unreleased masterpiece. One can’t help but think this should have been released as a single, I can only imagine this wasn’t done due to the song’s lyrics referring to the troubles in Northern Ireland. The other three tracks from the session represent great performances of the classics Give ‘Em Hell, Getting’ Heavy and Moon Magic.
Cloak and Dagger brings this box set to a close. Vocalist Luther Beltz was brought in to replace Steve Bridges and it is evident from the beginning that he has some pretty amazing pipes. He profoundly reminds me of both Rob Halford, and King Diamond. Opening track Devil’s Playground is one of my favourites on the album, classic heavy metal in the mould of Judas Priest, whose influence is all over the record, and not just in the vocal department. I’d Rather Go Wild, Cloak and Dagger, and Cry Wolf all represent high points, and whilst the rest of the album is pleasant enough, it doesn’t quite live up to the standard of those tracks.
Overall this box set represents great value, the remastering job has brought new life to some old classics, and the bonus tracks are well worth their inclusion. The whole set is well packaged and the comprehensive booklet has some fantastic images, as well as telling the history of the band. This set is highly recommended to collectors of NWOBHM, fans of the band, and metalheads of all ages. Darren Charles