Witchfinder General (1979-1983, 2006-2008): a NWOBHM band from Stourbridge, UK.
he NWOBHM and doom metal Sabbath-esq operation Witchfinder General became known for their controversial album cover art more then their actual music. In fairness, however, the music is considered some of the first in the NWOBHM style to feature the early Sabbath sound. Founded in 1979 by Zeeb Parkes (vocals) and Phil Cope (guitar), they took the band name from a classic horror film. They completed the outfit by adding Toss McCready (bass) and Steve "Kid Nimble" Kinsell (drums). Their debut single was titled Burning a Sinner (also jokingly known as "Burning a Singer"). It displayed a Sabbath influenced doom metal sound. After their track for the Heavy Metal Heroes compilation EP they got started working on their debut album with haste.
Peter Hinton (producer for Saxon) was brought in for their Death Penalty (1982) release, completed in three days with session bassist Zak Bajjon, although the original pressing shows one Woolfy Trope in his place in error; the error was caused by the membership recently changing but the album designers failed to implement the changes before pressing.
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Their line-up proved to be unstable at this point, and bassist Rod Hawkes permanently replaced McCready. Over all, Death Penalty had promise but suffered from speedy production; time simply wasn't sufficient to fine-tune the details. The album's chances of success was for notoriety not from the music but from the cover art, depicting long time band friend and model Joanne Latham semi-nude engaged in a mock sacrifice scene photographed in a cemetery. The scene made it into the pages of the infamous UK tabloids. The band attempted to cash in on their newly founded image by releasing the Soviet Invasion EP in 1983 featuring the noted title track.
The follow-up album with Graham Ditchfield on drums, Friends of Hell (1983), featured a similar sacrifice scene as the previous, this time in front of a church with, not one but several, semi-nude models splattered with blood. Not surprisingly, the album flopped; the public obviously tiring of the band's poor taste in art, sent them into obscurity shortly after.
Obscurity perhaps, but the band (minus vocalist & writer Zeeb Parkes) reformed in November 2006, with new vocalist Gary Martin. In 2007 they released Buried Amongst the Ruins, a compilation CD featuring the Burning a Sinner single, the while Soviet Invasion EP, and four live tracks including a live version of the unreleased track Phantasmagorical. While stating they would not perform live again, the band went on to release their third full-length album, Resurrected (2008) before going silent again.
Footnote: Bijjon would go on to manage Cradle of Filth, and find his own band Rainmaiker888. It should also be noted that the very first pressing of Death Penalty lists Graham Ditchfield on drums and/or one Woolfy Trope on bass as a band members instead of what is now listed. This error was corrected on subsequent pressings (the line-up changed almost immediately after the initial pressing).
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