When Witchfynde released their first album Give ‘Em Hell the title could have been a mission statement for everything the band was about. Well, they’ve done it again and their second album since reforming will make you do exactly what it says on the cover, Play It To Death. The album is a triumph, trust me.
Formed in Nottingham back in 1979, they were a leading light in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). It was a movement that also heralded the emergence of bands such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, Diamond Head, and Def Leppard to name but a few. A favourite of the late BBC Radio One show DJ Tommy Vance they quickly built a name for themselves. They also built a reputation for their uncompromising heavy metal sound and satanic imagery.
Albums Stagefright (1980), Cloak And Dagger (1983), and Lords Of Sin (1984) followed before the band split up. When the Best Of Witchfynde was released in 1996 with good sales and excellent reviews, the idea of the band reforming began to become a possibility. Time and again latter day metal bands were citing Witchfynde among their inspirations. In 2000 they finally reformed. Needless to say it was a very welcome announcement indeed.
The line-up now consists of guitarist Montalo, drummer Gra Scoresby, bass player Pete ‘Thud’ Surgey, and new singer Harry Harrison. They went to work and released their fifth album The Witching Hour in October 2001. It was a mix of re-recorded classic Witchfynde tracks and new material. A totally new studio album was due and here it is, Play It To Death (Cherry Red Records). What a stunning album it is too, coming straight out of the classic school of metal.
Recorded at Bandwagon Studio, Mansfield, the ten tracks on Play It To Death were produced by the band themselves. Two covers are included, a superb grinding version of Robin Trower’s “Shame The Devil”, and a powerful Witchfynde take on The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”. The rest are written by the band who are clearly enjoying creating new material. Opening with the riff fest that is the title track, it loses no momentum whatsoever throughout a highly impressive set.
“Holy Ground” has Harry Harrison underlining his vocal presence. Sometimes disturbing and always powerfully effective, his vocals help give the songs an even darker edge. Not that they necessarily need it! “Holy Ground”, “Life’s A Killer”, “Sticks And Stones”, and “Play It To Death” all have enough brooding energy and darkness of their own. They all contain some wonderfully doom laden riffs from an on fire Montalo.
There are simply no misfires or duds on this album at all. The excellent “Love Like Sin” has Harry sounding like a demonic Scott Walker such is the power of his voice. Sandwiched nicely between the two covers, this track is just superb. Other standouts include the tale of a witch “Elements”, the magnificently powerful, “The Darkest Place”, and “Three Wise Monkeys”. The latter just demands airplay – great stuff.
With this album Witchfynde suddenly make all those years of inactivity more than worth the wait. Play It To Death is a triumph of a metal album and will help underline the name of Witchfynde once again. Any metal fan who has a gaping hole in their collection under the letter ‘W’ simply has to fill it. When you have, then all you need to do is, Play It To Death.