Kerrang! Issue 45 – July 1983
WITCHFYNDE: Cloak and Dagger (Expulsion EXIT 5)
BACK from beyond the Grave (or at least from a lengthy period of inactivity), Witchfynde, once pretenders to Sabbath’s Satanic sepulchre, now find themselves well adrift of such demonstrative metallurgists as Venom and Mercyful Fate.
It’s been more than two years since the band’s last LP, ‘Stagefright’, a period which has seen them undergo considerable personnel upheavals. However, now re-grouped with two new members in Luther Beltz and Pete Surgey, they’re back with a hungry, saliva-dripping, determination.
Did I say ‘hungry’? Just listen to the opening moments of the first track ‘Devil’s Playground’. You can’t mistake the sound of a ravenous Werewolf tearing into the fresh flesh of its victim (unless, it’s Lemmy tucking into some fish ‘n’ chips). And a nasty piece of work it is, too. Certainly my hellishly fiendish hopes were stoked up for a rare gourmet treat of vintage gothic gore. But. . ‘Devil’s Playground’ turns out to be a cliché-ridden rat trap, full of the usual sinister claps of empty laughter, gloomy, sub-lommi gut wrenches and King Diamond-style yelps. In short, more a mumble-jumble than hack ‘n’ slash.
‘Crystal Gazing’ does little to elevate the blood pressure, being all stodge and no substance. Yet, from there on in, things take a dramatic turn for the better. ‘I’d Rather Go Wild’, for instance, has a distinctive, lycanthropic snap, whilst ’Somewhere To Hide’ is black metal imbued with the spirit of pop. However, the piece de resistance is saved for ‘Cloak & Dagger’. Superbly constructed out of simple, repetitive rhythms, it builds into a sustained, neck- twisting claustrophobic brutality, clubbing the senses into a twilight state of delirium.
What a pity that like everything else here, it’s spoilt by a production marginally less impressive than a gold-fish duet. Thus in common with Warlord’s ‘Deliver Us’, this is an album of good material, whose impact has been softened by a terrible recording quality.
THE AIR crackled and cackled with eerie expectation. ‘The Sinister Storekeeper’ seemed to draw a deep strength from the twilight swirl of windy shadows as he intoned the plea: “rise . . . Rise RISE!!’
At first nothing stirred in the darkness. Then, as if breaking through some invisible black shackles, four figures lumbered into view, their faltering steps became ever more confident, guided by the hellish force of the electric riff. For this ain’t rock ‘n’ roll, this is rack ‘n’ ruin!
Breaking free of the nightmare, three less-than-frightening figures (guitarist Montalo, vocalist Luther Beltz – and drummer Gra Scoresby) entered the shallow portals of Kerrang! Villas to talk about how this band was nearly brought to total rack’n’ruin and
how they’ve managed to crawl back from the edge.
So, where to start. Well, ’twas in 1981 that anything significant was last heard from ‘Fynde, viz a squeak in the dark entitled ‘Stagefright’, this being the title any of their second (and final) LP for the `highly suspect’ Rondelet Records organisation. Or at
least, the band see Rondelet as being ‘highly suspect’, anyhow, as Montalo explained: “Yeah, `Give’Em Hell’, our first album, and `Stagefright’ were both good enough records, but the company simply would not back them up with any meaningful promotion.
And we hardly got any money put into us at all. Fans came along to our shows quite rightly expecting a Saxon – type big thing, yet we didn’t have the financial backing to make it happen. Our entire lighting show seemed to consist of a couple of light bulbs! We felt we were letting our fans down. “The only way out for us was to break free of our situation, ‘cos we were just banging our heads against a wall. So we set out to look for new and a fresh deal with people who believed in us. In short Witchfynde had to start all over again.”
The quartet (whose line-up is completed by absent bassist Pete Surgey) went through numerous companies before landing themselves with their present record label, Expulsion (as yet they’ve not signed to any satisfactory management). “Getting the Expulsion deal was a lifeline for us,” added Beltz. “We could have given ourselves up to a lot of dodgy over the past couple of years just to get a record out. But we held back, ‘cos we wanted to get the best possible backing and make sure our fans don’t get ripped off.”
The first vinyl release from ’em was the single ‘rd Rather Go Wild, which stunned everyone in the 8enartg! krypt by belching its way up into the Top Five of the HM chart. A success for a phenomenal troupe who’ve been away from the scene for so long
“I still think we’ve got some popularity,” suggested Scoresby. “We’ve always got a stream of letters from people all over the world asking what we’re up to. Apparently, Witchfynde records go down very well, would you believe it, in Japanese discos! But the incredible thing was, the single announcement had been made about it coming out! How people found out about it, I just dunno.
We’re all hoping the album will do equally as well.” Ah yes, the album. You might recall several issues back I was rather scathing about certain aspects of it (mainly the production side), viewing it as a good offering that lacked any polish. Well, since then it has
come to light my review tape was in point of fact an ‘nth’ generation recording, certainly not fit for review purposes. And having heard a finished copy of ‘Cloak & Dagger’ (for thus it has been baptised), my opinion must definitely be slightly revised. No, the production is still not sensational, but at least it sounds adequate, a point Montalo picked up on. “I thought you were a bit harsh on Phil Chilton (who management handled the production). We’ve known him for quite some time and he has always been one of the few guys to totally believe in what we’re doing. Indeed, without his help we might have disappeared ages ago.
“I don’t claim his work is fantastic. But then we only had a very limited budget and time. The whole thing was originally supposed to be done inside seven days, and it was only after a lot of hassle that we got another few days on top of this. So in the end, we did 14 days in the studio, working 14 hours every day, with an overall cast of something like £3,000. Considering that handicap, I think he did a very good job. If he’d had the huge resources of someone like Def Leppard, it would have been even better. I suppose, in a way, I wouldn’t want to try and make too many excuses about the problems we had in the studio, ‘cos the LP is commercially available and the public are being asked to spend as much money on ‘Cloak & Dagger’ as, say, ‘Pyromania’. Obviously then, I can’t claim the sound quality should be ignored.”
That having been said, make no mistake `C&D’ is still a solid cocktail of occult/demonic rock. Many of the numbers have genuine quality to ’em. I can even ignore the fact that Beltz sounds like a deadringer for King Diamond Billy, ‘cos he does it so well. However, can it really be overlooked that Witchfynde in their self -imposed absence, have fallen way behind the likes of Venom and Mercyful Fate in the Blank Metal stakes?
“We don’t really like comparing ourselves to these sort of bands,” answered Scoresby. “You see, we regard ourselves as contemporaries of Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Def Leppard, ‘cos they were beginning their climb upwards when ‘Give’Em Hell’ first appeared. And certainly both Leppard and Maiden encountered huge problems before they made it, so we’re confident we can still come through, even though they’ve got very big backing and so far we haven’t.
“As for Venom, we hate’em. In fact, we’d like to do a gig with that lot, just so we can have the pleasure of blowing ’em away! They’ve ripped us off. Listen to their stuff – it’s a blatant steal from our ideas. They’ve not got one original thought. I know, we’ve often been accused of being Sabbath copyists, but we used them as a springboard to develop our own ideas, Venom just take what we’ve done and recycle it.”