Hells Headbangers (2012), Roadrunner Records
1984 / October 23rd, 2012
Release length: 40:14
First of all, the audio leaves quite a lot to be desired for it’s time, at least as far as the bass goes. For 1984, it isn’t that bad, having a nice mixture of lower background rhythms and louder, cleaner leads with a decent mid-range bass guitar presence. The drums come through pretty well, having a nice yet distant clarity to the cymbals, tight snares with a slight echo, and some bass kicks that range from loud and apparent to more in the background and masked, either way still holding a natural click that sounds great. Finally, there’s the clean vocals, and they are executed quite well. Again, there’s a decent echo, which is to be expected for the time, but there’s a good deal of enthusiasm and range from the mid-level to higher pitched singing. All in all, this is a very raw recording, and it’s obvious given the higher treble of the audio, and the amount of noise present in almost every aspect.
But this doesn’t mean it’s a bad album in any way. In fact, this is a fantastic long lost gem of the eighties full of fun and catchy material. Right away you are blessed with the song “Night Flight in Tokyo,” kicking off with a rough spoken word recording on a tape deck before it clicks off and kicks into an energetic example of vintage eighties Heavy Metal. Catchy leads mixed with some chugging riffs in the background are met with an equally energetic and infectious vocal performance, as well as some supporting singing behind it in the highly memorable chorus. Banging your head along is not mandatory, but rather instinct, and it’s just a shame there isn’t a stronger bass presence that comes through on this, and the other songs presented. Of course, it’s not necessary for “Axe Dance,” which is a fantastic instrumental that seems to mostly be an extended guitar solo. Things start off a little on the simpler side, opening with a short but sweet guitar solo for a brief moment, then kicking into a traditional guitar solo that adds a little complexity going up and down the neck. After a gap, the heavier atmosphere changes, and a much tighter performance is given that introduces an upbeat atmosphere that will instantly grab you and leave you in awe of the skills on display.
Not all the catchy songs here have to be enthusiastic and faster. “Face of a Clown” is a little more emotional, and carries that dirty eighties Rock vibe well. Again, the chords do chug, but at a faster pace against an overall mid-tempo speed. The vocals show great pride that really stands out like the guitar solo that erupts after a much slower bridge that leaves a few gaps, and an odd sound similar to breathing directly into the microphone, or overmodulated bass kicks. You will find an equal passion in “Killer Dogs,” though the track itself definitely carries more energy in the verses and chorus, but not enough to compare it to “Night Flight in Tokyo.” The only drawback is when the pace slows down prior to the solo, taking you out of things a bit with singing that isn’t quite as strong, as well as a second vocalist for one line. There’s also the sudden increase in speed for the second guitar solo that finds a larger drive from the bass guitar. It’s more enjoyable, but still seems to come out of nowhere worse than the slower section prior. “Light of a Torch” brings in an obvious darker tone, but also a bit of a personal one. The galloping drums match the chug of the verses well, but it’s the rather melodic chorus that is most memorable, though makes you wish the singing here were a little more fluid. There is a bit of a twisted sound prior to another impressive guitar solo, and it works with the lyrical theme that is being utilized in a fantastical atmosphere.
The 2012 Hells Headbangers reissue isn’t anything new or unique. In fact, it lacks material compared to the 2007 CD pressing from Keltic Records. But, given the label is also issuing a compilation of the demo material this year, it’s something that can slide. Instead, this is clearly being reissued to make the album available to the public once more, and on various formats. This edition will be available on CD, LP, cassette, and Picture LP once more. Yes, back in 2011, Hells Headbangers had reissued this in Picture LP format already, but it was in a strictly limited pressing of one hundred and one. Given the raw quality it’s immediately clear this is best heard on either of the LPs, as well as the generally accepted method anyway. The original artwork is also included, as are the lyrics, making this a nice addition for anyone new to Witch Cross.
If you haven’t heard this hidden gem from Witch Cross yet, then now is the best time than any to venture out and sink your teeth into Fit for Fight. The original pressing may be a little hard to come by, but well worth your time to track it down in whatever format it was presented in. Given the number of reissues out there, it wouldn’t be too hard to own a copy if having the initial pressing doesn’t matter that much. Despite the higher pitched audio quality that can be a bit of a problem here and there, this album still has plenty of catchy songs, and many that favor the eighties dark and dirty atmosphere. With every song here well worth your time. Regardless of what printing you end up grabbing, Fit for Fight is a doorway to what made the eighties so great when it came to Heavy Metal, and a staple to any collector’s library.
01. Night Flight in Tokyo – 4:21
02. Face of a Clown – 5:03
03. Rocking the Night Away – 5:08
04. Killer Dogs – 5:02
05. Fight the Fire – 5:20
06. Axe Dance – 3:20
07. Light of a Torch – 5:38
08. Alien Savage – 6:09
|Overall Score: 8.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Hell’s Headbangers.