(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Lead Journalist/Writer, RiffRelevant)
In a day and age where there’s countless bands laying their claim to using the word “witch” in their moniker, let’s take a look back at one of the earlier, better witch-related bands. Of course I am talking about Denmark’s magnificent Witch Cross, one of heavy metal’s more underappreciated bands in my opinion.
The band formed in the Danish city of Hillerød in 1980 by vocalist Alex Savage (aka Alex Nyborg Madsen), Mike Wlad Koch & Thomas Stoney on guitars, Jan “Little John” Field on bass and Anders “A.C.” Hjort on drums. This line up eventually recorded a couple of Demos and a single in 1982 titled “No Angel/Are You There” that did rather well with local music fans. Despite that, not long after its release, Thomas Stoney exited Witch Cross and the vacant spot was soon filled by Cole Hamilton. With Cole on board, the band began to develop a much more metallic style with twin guitar parts ala Judas Priest.
Now feeling reinvigorated, Witch Cross went to work on writing and recording a full-length debut. The studio hands the band utilized consisted of Danish guitarist Ivan Horn (who had produced that first single) and engineer Niels Erik Lund who worked with Mercyful Fate and King Diamond at the legendary Easy Sound Studio in Copenhagen.
In 1984, Witch Cross arrived with their debut album for Roadrunner Records, the 8-song Fit For Fight. The album was an energized assault of heavy metal and powerful melodic elements, it especially put the band’s guitar playing prowess on full for listeners. However, A.C. would soon exit the band, being replaced by new drummer, Lars (“Tony Adams“) Bjornstad.
Witch Cross began undertaking several Scandanavian tours at this time, by all accounts winning over metal fans everywhere. In 1985, the band went on a Dutch / German tour and at one stop, were captured live on video at the famous Dynamo in Holland. After that tour, Cole Hamilton then left the band and was replaced by Rene Rieland on guitar.
Despite their fantastic debut full-length release, talented playing and amazing live shows, the band began to show certain internal issues in time. The band issued a couple of back to back demos in ’85 – ’86 but by this time, Jan “Little” John Field was the only original member remaining. In 1986, Witch Cross called it a day and disbanded.
Over the next two decades or so, the fame and legacy of Witch Cross would continue to grow and thrive with fans of underground metal. Those fans had their wildest dreams come true a bit less than thirty years later when Witch Cross re-activated sometime in 2012. They dominated that year’s Keep It True festival while the band’s roster was comprised of three original members, guitarist Mike Wlad Koch, bassist Jan “Little John” Fields and drummer Anders “AC” Hjort. Rounding out their live line up was British singer Kevin Moore from Graham Oliver’s Saxon and guitarist Paul Martin.
In 2013, the revered label Hells Headbangers put together All That’s Fit For Fighting, a 4 CD / LP compilation that included the “Fit For Fight” debut, “No Angel/Are You There” single and a plethora of other material. The resurrection of Witch Cross did not end there though thankfully as the label hosted a release of all new music, “Axe To Grind“, that same year. The line up for the band and LP was Kevin Moore, Mike Wlad Koch, Paul Martin, Tony Adams and Jan “Little” John Field.
“Axe To Grind” is streaming in full below and Witch Cross remains active at this time. Check out their Facebook page here.