|Review: Witchfinder General - Friends of Hell|
|Friends of Hell|
Label: Heavy Metal Records
Year released: 1983
Genre: Doom Metal
Review online: January 30, 2010
Reviewed by: Adam Kohrman
for:Friends of Hell
Rated 4.22/5 (84.44%) (9 Votes)
I want to love this album more than I do. Witchfinder General had such an original sound during an important point in metal's history. Known for their catchy, blues-driven riffing, Zeeb's unmistakable nasal squeal, and ludicrously misogynistic album covers, Witchfinder General were one of the NWOBHM's gems. Their debut, Death Penalty features songs as infectious as music gets. Sadly though, they were unable to recapture that magic with Friends of Hell. By no means a bad album though, this album still has a strong first half, with a few very heartfelt numbers. Yet at the same time, it was becoming clear that they were beginning to run out of ideas. Moreover, despite Zeeb's imitable vocals, it had become clear that he had limitations, and that they had been reached.
Despite its failings, this album has its strong points. Tracks like "Love on Smack" showcase the band's ability to create groovy post-Sabbath heavy metal. Zeeb's pained wail highlights these tracks; his near-croon creates a zoned out, drug addled atmosphere. Then comes the simple but enormously catchy and beloved song "Music." This is every passionate metalhead's anthem, as it details how much music can mean to one person, when it reaches the level of necessity. Later on in the album is the song "I Lost You," Friends of Hell's only ballad. It has all the right factors, except that Zeeb's ultra nasal voice can't carry the emotion. It becomes overbearing and distracting, making the intense emotions intended for the song impossible. The song still has its virtues, but is ultimately a failed ballad.
The mid-part of this album is where Witchfinder General really loses it. On songs like "Shadowed Images" and "Requiem for Youth," they laden their songs with unfocused psychedelic influences, almost to the point of sounding like a pothead jam band. Yeah, it's that out of place. It's with these songs that you can see Witchfinder General running out of ideas. The songs become drawn out and uncreative, and their trademark catchiness has disappeared.
After this album, Witchfinder General themselves disappeared. Facts about the members whereabouts and possible future projects couldn't be scavenged for. After many years, rumors surfaced that multiple members had been serving jail sentences for drug charges. Different accounts of varying veracity exist, making it difficult to know the truth. Whatever the case may be, they recently reunited –minus Zeeb—to record a reunion album, which no one seems to have listened to. It's sad, because during the early 80s, this band created some of the catchiest songs in the metal genre.
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