Witchfinder General Death Penalty Album Review

Death Penalty by Witchfinder GeneralFound another winner: Witchfinder General, Death Penalty. Easily one of my new all time-favorites. And the funny – and to some degree embarrassing – thing is: up until a few months ago, I didn’t know this band even existed. Well, shows me that there are still so many good Heavy-Rock bands out there for me to discover. Which is good!

Speaking of music genres and trying to figure out into which Witchfinder General fits best, is a daunting task. Not so much stylistically, but more from a semantics perspective. Is it Doom Metal? Hard Rock? Metal? Well, to me, it doesn’t matter what you call it. I’d like to describe it as heave Rock ‘n’ Roll. With that being said, Witchfinder General have been cited has one of the pioneering groups that ‘invented’ what’s now called Doom. Additionally, by own ‘admission’, they were heavily influenced by the early Black Sabbath material which is fairly conspicuous when you listen to their first two full studio records, namely “Friends of Hell” and “Death Penalty”. Also, the band, among others of that era, was a key player in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM).

Acknowledging the aforementioned resemblance between Witchfinder General and Black Sabbath, the band has its own sound which is driven by Phil Cope’s ultra-gainy and trebly guitar, Zeeb Parkes’ vocal delivery and Graham Ditchfield’s percussive drum playing. The guitar riffs are relentless and while seemingly straight forward, there’s actually a lot of subtle detail (hammer-ons and pull-offs) ‘in between’ the chords. Everything comes perfectly together, and listening to this record is like getting on a roller-coaster ride while getting an occasional punch into to the stomach.

Death Penalty by Witchfinder General doesn’t have a dull moment. All tracks are their own entities – what I mean by that, the album as a whole doesn’t tell a story, but is rather a compilation of individual statements. Lyrically, everything is covered, spanning from politics, love, sex, philosophy to burning witches. And a good portion of humor. At least that’s my perception. Which is, admittedly, very different from the public’s opinion. When the record was released in 1982 it caused quite a bit of turmoil, remaining subject to controversy and debate over proper etiquette. The album cover features a rather liberally dressed lady in less than desirable circumstances. Unless, of course, you like laying bear chested on a grave while four lads accuse you of witchery.

In sum: Wichtfinder General Death Penalty is a gem. And if you don’t have it sitting on your shelf already, then go out and get you a copy. You won’t regret it.

Witchfinder General band members (Death Penalty):

Zeeb Parkes – vocals
Phil Cope – guitars, bass (bass credited as Woolfy Trope)
Graham Ditchfield – drums

1. Invisible Hate
2. Free Country
3. Death Penalty
4. No Stayer
5. Witchfinder General
6. Burning a Sinner
7. R.I.P.

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