August 04, 2018

Witchfinder General - Resurrected (2008)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 2008 Buried By Time And Dust Records
llMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Comeback albums are a slippery slope. When a band takes an unusually long hiatus and returns, the results are often under whelming. The bargain bin at your local CD shop is undoubtedly littered with the results of those who tried and failed. The challenge for legendary doomsters Witchfinder General is even more profound, seeing as they have been absent from the metal scene for a quarter century and counting now. This year sees the take off of their second era, aptly titled Resurrected. The first thing I noticed is that the cover is lacking the topless witch theme of the first two albums, perhaps as a nod to a more mature sound, further signaling that this is a new band that has risen after 25 years. Yes, Witchfinder General have been resurrected all right, but sadly this is nowhere near the quality of their previous work. I will stop short of calling this a failure, but is impossible not to at least label this a disappointment.

For me, Phil Cope riffs and Zeeb Parkes’ vocals were the heart and soul of Witchfinder General’s two outstanding early 80’s albums, Death Penalty and Friends of Hell. At some point, Zeeb (whose real name I do not know) and Phil had a falling out, and as Phil put it, “the character” of Zeeb Parkes ceased existence after the initial split up of the band. The replacement vocalist had big shoes to fill, and the duties were handed to previously unknown, at least in doom circles, Gaz Martin. Simply put, the drop off from Zeeb to Gaz is immense. It is hard to compare them directly; since they primarily employ different vocal styles, but it was fairly obvious to me early on that Gaz was going to do more to hurt this album than help it. Case in point, the opener, The Living Hell. A church choral sample leads into an uncharacteristically slow and modern doom riff from Phil, before he turns to a tried and true waterfall of a traditional riff that sounds more like his previous work. Phil Cope has not lost one bit of his riffing talent. That much is clear, and will become clearer as the album goes on. Coupled with the vintage sounding production, a great many of these riffs would fit right in with Witchfinder General’s 80’s classics. Derm Redmond’s drums are nothing to write home about, and don’t have quite the punch of those previously played by Graham Ditchfield. This is easy to block out though, as Phil’s riffs are as captivating as ever. Unfortunately, Gaz Martin’s vocals cannot be ignored, and they just do not work for me. On The Living Hell, he tries a calm and clean vocal style that is more in the vein of traditional doom. This should work well, but his vocals just sound frankly off key to my ears. I will not proclaim myself to be a vocal expert, but I know what I like, and this is not it. On some of the later tracks, such as A Night to Remember, he switches to a more gruff and dirty rock approach that he sounds infinitely more comfortable with. The problem is that this style does not mesh very well with Phil’s riffing. Perhaps sensing this, at some points (The Gift of Life immediately comes to mind) it appears that Phil is altering his style to match Gaz’s vocals, but it still does not sound cohesive to me. I do not wish to spend this entire review bashing one of my favorite bands, as there are some definite highlights to be found. As you probably guessed, they all involve Phil and his guitar. His central solo on Brutal Existence is an absolute thing of beauty. The main riff of Final Justice is awesome, though it will sound like Electric Funeral to those with even the most rudimentary knowledge of Black Sabbath. The Living Hell despite its vocal shortcomings, still has plenty of kickass riffing, and the first half of the closer The Funeral/Beyond the Grave contains some great dark riffs slowly played over spoken word.

Though I have definitely heard worse comeback efforts, I cannot remember one that left me more disappointed, if only because I hold Witchfinder General in such high regard. With the right vocalist, this album still might not have been as good as their earlier work, but I have to believe it would have been much better than what Resurrected actually is: a plethora of amazing riffs and a few solos by the inimitable Phil Cope both held back by vocals that do not measure up to the standards this band set in the 80’s

tags: witchfinder general, resurrected, 2008, flac,