August 16, 2021 Witch Cross – Angel of Death (Album Review)
From the icy shores of Denmark comes the return of Witch Cross with their new album Angel of Death on June 11, 2021 through High Roller Records.
A sometimes overlooked, but excellent band, the story of Witch Cross began in the early ’80s under the moniker Blood Eagle (a name since claimed by a new set of Danes). The band would go onto release an acclaimed debut Fit for Fight in 1984 through Roadrunner Records. Toiling early in the shadow of fellow countrymen Mercyful Fate—even going so far as to record the debut in the same studio, Easy Sound Recording in Copenhagen—the band shuffled through some lineup changes and ultimately vanished for over a decade.
Fast forward to more recent times, the early 2010s brought a fresh lineup and a long-awaited sophomore effort, Axe to Grind in 2013, helmed by founding member Mike Wlad on guitar/vocals, Paul Martin on guitars, Little John Field on bass, and Tony Adams on drums (later replaced by Jesper Haugaard). Axe to Grind also marked the first teaming with new voice Kevin Moore. An import from England, Moore manages to touch the stylings of solo Ozzy Osbourne, as well as a number of his replacements in Black Sabbath, mainly Ronnie James Dio and touches of Tony Martin, while adding his own distinctive flair.
This brief introduction in mind, Wlad is still a master of writing straight-ahead Heavy Metal riffs and it is evident on Angel of Death which opens with a blistering title-track. Later, the crackling tone of “Siren’s Song” wastes no time ripping open ears, then carries the track to an epic, otherworldly finish. Thereafter “The Chosen One” opens with the vengeful sorrow of an ’80s ballad before catching just the right amount of speed. All this in mind, other than some touches of modern production, Angel of Death could have been released in the ’80s. In fact, it is impressive how easily the band produce songs that adhere to the authentic sounds and themes of an era long past without trying too hard.
Which leads us to the vocals. For those who have followed the band, Moore is now entering his tenth year as a member of Witch Cross, but his voice is as rich and versatile as the band’s beginnings. The lyrical content can get a bit campy at times. For example, “Marauders” firmly walks the line between old-school Heavy Metal vibes and modern caricature. This is while “Eye of the Storm” is nearly laughable both in terms of delivery and rhyming content. Although, the latter is the only time the band sounds unbelievable during its journey back through time to the heyday of the genre. There is also “Evil Eye” sounds a bit too Glam Metal for the rest of the album, saved only by its perfect Ozzy impersonation.
Overall, Angel of Death sticks largely to the steady diet of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. That said, the album close, “Warrior,” mixes the strong voices of both Moore on the microphone and Wlad on guitar, creating the true perfect storm alluded to earlier.
Despite some missteps, Angel of Death is a solid Heavy Metal album rightfully capturing its birthright, without sounding retrofitted or trapped. The album may not be a knockout blow, but it proves that Witch Cross have plenty of gas left in the tank. Thus, Cryptic Rock gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.