Let's get something straight here. Any band that would choose to name themselves after Vincent Price's classic low budget 1968 British horror film deserves special consideration. By classic I mean a film that has a huge cult following in much the same way this doom/NWOBHM band is still looked at. Despite being such a huge influence on the doom metal genre Witchfinder General are still not as well known as other NWOBHM acts. Formed in Stourbridge, England in 1979 by vocalist Zeeb Parkes and guitarist Phil Cope Witchfinder General were different from the word go. Very few bands of the NWOBHM movement opted to build their sound around early Black Sabbath instead of bands like Judas Priest. In contrast to the uptempo metal that was all the rage at the time Witchfinder General played a brand of low tuned doom. Even though they recorded only two albums (the classic "Death Penalty" and the killer followup "Friends Of Hell") the band would create a lasting legacy. With Witchfinder General you have another classic example of a group that was short-lived and yet their small outpouring of music speaks volumes. Despite the fact that over time both albums would influence a whole generation of doom acts sadly it seems that for too many people all they know about Witchfinder General is the infamous album covers. Featuring a topless model (Joanne Latham who was a friend of the band) in scenes where supposed witches were tortured by men of the cloth the albums were considered controversial and have as such out shined the actual music. Sure they created a legacy for the band it is just that unfortunately few bothered to to take the time to listen to the actual music which would prove to be some of the best of the NWOBHM era. Even though the band was well received by fans and critics alike their career was short-lived and by 1984 it was all over for the band. Like other great bands of the era Witchfinder General would not stay down for long and by 2006 (with three core members on board) they reformed. Their comeback album "Resurrected" was released in 2008 and by all accounts the band is alive and well. Both of their classic albums can be found on CD as well as on Itunes and are a must for NWOBHM fans and doom collectors.
Metal Mark says-
My introduction to Witchfinder General happened at a great record store called the Music Machine. It was 1988 and I had money burning a hole in my pocket. I saw picture disc of "Friends of hell" for about $10 and grabbed it right away. I had been in a doom phase at the time listening to Sabbath, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Candlemass and others. So I took to Witchfinder General right away. The early 1980's were certainly an odd time to be playing style in that very few others were making the same kind of music. From a historical perspective they hit after the early-mid
70's when Sabbath and others played slow sludge and they hit a few years before a couple of other bands like Candlemass and Saint Vitus would unearth doom again. Even though Witchfinder General didn't get mobs of fans during their first run they certainly served as an influence for doom/stoner bands of the last twenty years or so. I am listening to Death Penalty as I write this so I can soak in what made they tick. Even though these guys were influenced by the likes of Sabbath they still put their own mark on the style. The staggered drums, the flurries of riffs and their ability to knock out some varied tempos at unexpected moments are all elements that Witchfinder General brought to the table. These guys didn't just copy early doom, but instead they added to it and even progressed it a little as well. I have always found Witchfinder General to be a band that I can listen to at any given time.