Witchfinder General - Resurrected 3/5
1. The living hell
2. The gift of life
3. Final justice
5. Brutal existence
7. A night to remember
8. The funeral/Beyond the grave
One of the more unique bands to emerge from England during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Witchfinder General's tenure was typically all too brief, and their small discography is generally looked back on with fondness and frustration at what could have been. It may just be the general apathy that has developed from seemingly every band of that era getting back together in one form or another in recent times, but the collective shrug of the shoulders from the world at large that seemed to greet Phil Cope's announcement a couple of years back that he had re-assembled 3/4 of the band's final line-up remains a little surprising to me.
In retrospect, his Sabbath-worshipping troupe's output may have become a little overrated as the years have gone by from their untimely demise, but as one of the less standard-model NWOBHM bands, the prospect of a new set of songs a full quarter-century after their last full-length offering is intriguing.
With Witchfinder General's musical style already old-fashioned when they were playing it first time around (remember they pre-dated, or helped form, doom metal depending on how you look at it) it was never going to be a question of whether Cope's music sounded dated in this day and age, but just how well his talent for writing 70s rock/metal had endured the years.
While not always sounding completely inspired, the 7 full songs on 'Resurrected' are a generally a solid bunch, with some less memorable moments contrasting with more inspired numbers that show the band still have something left to offer.
Sadly, the missing member from the old line-up is vocalist Zeeb Parkes, and while not a legendary singer by any means, he was recognizable as the face of Witchfinder General, and it is always nice to hear the vocalist best associated with a band when they are making a comeback. Newcomer Gary Martin's rasping, 40-a-day voice is significantly different to Parkes' Ozzy-style wail, and unfortunately he is often found to be the weak link in this new version of the band.
While Cope's solos are well played and drummer Dermot Redmond puts in a varied and energetic display behind the kit, Martin at times sounds shaky and out of place. The worst such occurrence is during the sped-up section of "The gift of life" (very, very reminiscent of that in Sabbath's "Electric funeral", it must be said), where he croaks his way through a 'call-and-response' vocal effect to the detriment of what is otherwise a very good song.
Still, there is some excellent proto-doom to be found regardless on 'Ressurected', with the opening and closing tracks "The living hell" and "The funeral/Beyond the grave" offering some substantial gloomy menace. "A night to remember" also stands out for a couple of reasons. While the music displays some of the absolute best aspects of 70s rock, the hilariously awful lyrics represent some for the worst. Witchfinder General never had the best of the lyrics in the first place, but there's something about a man in his 20s singing about getting stoned in the 80s that a man in his 40s can't really get away with in the here and now.
It may not be the 2nd coming some were hoping for, but for a slice of 70s metal that is completely genuine in its intent and execution, you could do a lot worse than check this out. Limitations aside, it is nice to see Witchfinder General back in some form, and they are thankfully doing no harm to their legacy. Whether they can continue to churn out songs good enough for them to stick around for longer than the first time out remains to be seen, though, and a big improvement in the vocal department would be of immense benefit.
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