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Saturday, June 18, 2011

REVIEW: Angel Witch (UK) - Frontal Assault (1986)

angel witch frontal assault

Many of you know Angel Witch from their quite legendary self-titled debut album. It was classic early NWOBHM at it's best, and more complex record than most of the genre's releases.  Also, many who think debut album's style is the only real one, may have overlooked the latter two eighties releases (Screamin' N' Bleedin' and Frontal Assault) because of the style change. Changes in musical direction are surely noticeable between Self Titled release and Frontal Assault, being more than just "natural progression" or "getting more matured sound". Angel Witch still plays pure heavy metal honest to eighties roots on Frontal Assault, but instead of pure NWOBHM in it's rawest form, what we have on the record is almost equally melodic, but more heavy and straight-forward, less seventies-flavored and less dry sound. Initial early NWOBHM sound has shifted more towards regular heavy metal sound with tighter rhythm guitar section, and generally tighter riffing. To sum it up Frontal Assault wins in heaviness and is perhaps easier album to get into, than the debut, but it loses original unique epic feel and more complex melodies, which made the debut a true classic. On Frontal Assault, Angel Witch do almost sound like a band that could well be pure late eighties heavy metal band from United States (Omen, anyone?). Perhaps they were trying to reach new audience from over-seas?

So is Frontal Assault a waste, for it's not epic and adventurous, mind expanding journey, like the self-titled debut? No. Calling it "sell-out" would be simply degrading. In my opinion Frontal Assault is a fine album, a different kind, but fine, and it surely has it's place in history. It's pure powerful heavy metal. Dave Tattum's gloomy and overly dramatic mid-range vocals are well likable. They are melodic, featuring opera-like soaring. Tattum's vocals are very powerful and it's the driving force of the album almost dominating the songs. Frontal Assault sounds dramatic and a bit moody by it's melodies. Heybourne's guitar playing is another powerful driving force on Frontal Assault. His rhythm guitar lines use high-end distortion with much treble. Needless to say rhythm guitars are truly ripping your guts. Rhythm section is the dominating force, but it's complemented with flashy lead guitar melodies, which don't quite take place so often than in the debut. There's fair amount of shredding and flying guitar solos featured in Frontal Assault, too.

As much as I respect the Angel Witch's classic debut album's down to the early roots of NWOBHM style, I have to admit that I do like this more straight-forward less epic style by the band very much. A slight complaint could be pressed on the general tempo of the album, which never really hits most rapid speeds, as well as the drumming, which core sound is fine, but patterns are bit too simple, never really shining at any point. I would even use word "dragging" on the drums, if it didn't give out too negative image of the situation, as the drummer does his work decently filling up his spot. Part of the blame could be sound mix, which doesn't let drummers work to be heard properly (especially hi-hats, fills), while the sound is definitely good on the part of other instruments.

Frontal Assault is quite strong album through and through, though the first half is noticeably better than the latter. Dramatic and melodic, rather anxious and evil title track Frontal Assault is top notch heavy metal on it's own right. It's followed by more moody and dream-like Dream World, which features keyboards lightly added to the background at times to spice things up, and it works. This song is a mind-invader, especially magical chorus! Rendezvous With The Blade has more thrashy main-riffs which are truly ripping, while slower Religion (Born Again) is more laid back song, that once again drifts more moody and anxious ride. Second half tracks are not turn-off either, while they don't stand up against the first half of the album. Straight To Hell best of the rest of songs, featuring dramatic melodies and evil imaginery, bit like the title track, but isn't quite as memorable. Something Wrong is half-ballad and has quite catchy melodic chorus part. She Don't Lie and Take To The Wing both stand their ground. Underdogs is a bit filler but not bad.

There's maybe slight repetition between the tracks on Frontal Assault, but there's not even one single bad song included. Rock solid performance and very enjoyable album throughout in my opinion, that doesn't deserve to be overshadowed forever by the classic self titled debut album. Do you like pure heavy metal with dramatic vocals, ripping rhythm guitars and fair share of melody? Then get Frontal Assault. This may not be NWOBHM anymore, but it is great heavy metal!

86 | reviewer: dungeoncrawler

  • Dave Tattum - Vocals
  • Kevin Heybourne - Guitars, Vocals (backing)
  • Pete Gordelier - Bass, Vocals (backing)
  • Spencer Holman - Drums

  • 1. Frontal Assault 04:05
  • 2. Dreamworld 03:52
  • 3. Rendezvous With the Blade 06:28
  • 4. Religion (Born Again) 04:08
  • 5. Straight From Hell 04:21
  • 6. She Don't Lie 05:56
  • 7. Take to the Wing 03:48
  • 8. Something Wrong 04:40
  • 9. Undergods 03:41
    • Total playing time: 40:59

For Collectors:
(Following prices have raised since ’99 but will give you direction)
Used album price @ Martin Popoff’s Heavy Metal Record Price Guide (1999):

Label – Killerwatt/KILP4003
Type – LP/UK/86
Near Mint – $13
Very Good+ - $7

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