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Witchfynde: Divine Victims - The Witchfynde Albums 1980-1983

The beginnings of Derbyshire NWOBHM act Witchfynde are shrouded in mystery, anywhere between 1973 and 1976 often stated as their formation date (even by band members), but one thing's for sure, the band's debut, Give 'Em Hell, didn't arrive until 1980. When it did it found a band who had been formed before the movement they belonged to even had a name, being derided as dated. Hindsight however, doesn't disagree and yet that debut offering is still a potent and forceful blast that, while hardly aiming to be high art, even adds some progressive aspects to the expected heavy metal attack. Here in a beautifully presented clamshell case it comes together with the band's second and third albums, Stagefright and Cloak & Dagger, and a gaggle of interesting bonus cuts.

The band was made up of drummer Gra Scoresby, bassist Andro Coulton, guitarist Montalo and lead singer Steve Bridges, the foursome deciding to take the demon by the horns and record their own demos in hope of scoring a record deal. By this stage however, NWOBHM bands were becoming ten-a-penny and amazingly a band who'd been there from the start were told they just sounded like everyone else. Hence the song "Unto The Ages Of The Ages" came into being and allowed Witchfynde to show a longer, more involved writing style. Following the example set by Def Leppard (who the band also toured with), the outfit set about self recording their debut album Give 'Em Hell, a superb mix of gritty rockers, surprisingly accessible choruses and the aforementioned 'epic'. With hindsight, Bridges' vocals may prove a little bit of an acquired taste, his yelps and occasionally falsetto vocals a little hit or miss and yet he's perfect when the band simply get their heads down and rock. Finally released through Rondelet Records Give 'Em Hell has gone on to be a respected and revered debut and while it's very of its time, it is easy to hear why it's rated so highly, Montalo's guitar work especially potent throughout, even if the sound is decidedly basic. Three bonus cuts appear on this disc, "The Devil's Gallop" (which did actually appear on the original vinyl) a tongue in cheek but ill advised knock about aimed at Sounds scribe Geoff Barton, who could never quite make it to one of the band's shows, while the excellent "Tetelestai" and b'side, "Wake Up Screaming", actually prove more potent than anything on the album itself. Both tracks containing riffs that the majority of vintage NWOBHM bands would have sold their leather jackets for. How they never made the final cut is anyone guess.

After waiting so long to record their debut, Witchfynde took the unexpected step of hitting home with a second foray in the same year. Stagefright finding Pete Surgey replacing Coulton on bass, although you can expect to find a mix of the pair's work in the results. The reasoning behind the quick turnaround was down to the band wanting to move on from songs they'd had ready for a long time, to instead focus on a selection of newly written pieces. However, as many second albums do, Stagefright suffers from a lack of focus, "Big Deal" an almost glam anthem, while "Stage Fright" and ""Doing The Right Thing" have a decidedly less metal attack. That said, "Moon Magic" and "Trick Or Treat" still rock hard and heavy, although "Madeleine" does close the album out weakly. The good still outweighs the bad though, "Wake Up Screaming" and "In The Stars" up to the debut's standards - something which can't be said for the jokey "Would Not Be Seen Dead In Heaven". The bonus cuts here take the form of a Friday Rock Show Session from 1981, although when it was initially intended for transmission the tapes simply would not play, legendary DJ Tommy Vance understating things when he said "Well, that's never happened before…". Having tried to hear their session on their car radio pre-gig, the band then trudged into a venue to perform their set and promptly blew up the PA, monitors and pretty much everything else. Fair to suggest it wasn't their best evening… The songs were aired on Radio 1 later in the year, where they found new singer Graham 'Chalky' White having replaced Bridges, the new man's more controlled delivery giving "Give 'Em Hell" and "Gettin' Heavy" from the debut and "Moon Magic" from album number two a fresh twist. The fourth song the band recorded was "Belfast", a song which had been brought in by the new singer and which would go on to appear on a Friday Rock Show compilation LP, which until now was the song's only official release. It may not be fully in keeping with the Witchfynde style, but it's still a welcome inclusion here.

The band's third album would appear a further two years down the line, 1983's Cloak & Dagger seeing yet another new name behind the mic, although, as it turned out, Luther Beltz was simply 'Chalky' White under a new guise. The idea was that of the band's new management who also negotiated their release from the financially crippled and musically disinterested Rondelet Records. However unbeknown to the band they were pawns in a financial game, their new label, Expulsion, taking Witchfynde on as payment for a debt owed them by Rondelet. Something that doubtless played a part in Cloak & Dagger sitting completed for months before its release. At least the results were worth the wait, the album a more cohesive affair and sitting nicely between metal monster and refined rock. In terms of production it was also a step up in class, while Beltz added a new bite and authority to the sound, everything from "Crystal Gazing" and "Cry Wolf" to "Start Counting" and "The Devil's Playground" hitting the intended mark with power and precision. However with their second record label heading for financial oblivion and critics sharpening their knives, the breakthrough was no nearer coming. Something compounded by their move to Mausoleum Records for there fourth album a year later - the label promptly folding too. Unfortunately no bonus tracks appear to bolster the band's excellent third release, however along with the debut effort from Witchfynde, Cloak & Dagger reveals an underrated and unsung band from the NWOBHM era that, like so many outfits of the time, had so much more to offer than most would have us believe.

With a remaster job from Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham that works hard with some ropey original audio sources and an excellent essay, which includes interviews with the band from John Tucker (who through the candour and honesty he brings, is fast becoming my favourite liner note writer), it has to be said that Divine Victims - The Witchfynde Albums 1980-1983 does a long underrated act very proud indeed.


Track Listing
GIVE 'EM HELL (1980)
1. READY TO ROLL
2. THE DIVINE VICTIM
3. LEAVING NADIR
4. GETTIN' HEAVY
5. GIVE 'EM HELL
6. UNTO THE AGES OF THE AGES
7. PAY NOW - LOVE LATER
BONUS TRACKS
8. THE DEVIL'S GALLOP
9. TETELESTAI
10. WAKE UP SCREAMING (45 B-SIDE)


STAGEFRIGHT (1980)
1. STAGE FRIGHT
2. DOING THE RIGHT THING
3. WOULD NOT BE SEEN DEAD IN HEAVEN
4. WAKE UP SCREAMING
5. BIG DEAL
6. MOON MAGIC
7. IN THE STARS
8. TRICK OR TREAT
9. MADELEINE
BONUS TRACKS BBC FRIDAY NIGHT ROCK SHOW - RECORDED 21/1/1981 TRANSMITTED 12/2/1981
10. GIVE 'EM HELL
11. GETTIN' HEAVY
12. BELFAST
13. MOON MAGIC


CLOAK & DAGGER (1983)
1. THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND
2. CRYSTAL GAZING
3. I'D RATHER GO WILD
4. SOMEWHERE TO HIDE
5. CLOAK AND DAGGER
6. CRY WOLF
7. START COUNTING
8. LIVING FOR MEMORIES
9. ROCK & ROLL
10. STAY AWAY
11. FRA DIABOLO

Added: April 23rd 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Divine Victims at Cherry Red
Hits: 480
Language: english

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