Burning a Sinner
With its 1982 debut album, Death Penalty, Stourbridge, England's Witchfinder General garnered two tiers of controversy. First, the cover art featured the band ravishing topless model Joanne Latham. Second, the band starkly set itself apart from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal by mining much of its sound from early Black Sabbath. Its song “Free Country” mimicked Sabbath’s “Paranoid” right down to the galloping rhythms and sludgy, driving guitar riffs. “Invisible Hate” opens the set with a little more originality, as Phil Cope’s guitars go from lilting, acoustic folk arpeggios to the hard-blasting walls of distortion and sludge that helped make him and Witchfinder General a pioneer of doom metal. Zeeb Parkes puts his own twist on an Ozzy-inspired howl throughout Death Penalty, especially on the gloomy title track and “No Stayer,” a proto-metal juggernaut with mammoth riffs that must have confused the more technically focused heavy metal guitarists during an era of advancing fretboard wizardry. “R.I.P.” closes with the golden grooves of a cowbell.