The Porcelain Throne: Witchfinder General


Bringing Doom to the Throne of Porcelain Glory

When people look at the history of Doom Metal, the timeline starts with Black Sabbath (duh) and leaps ahead a few years to the debuts of Trouble, Saint Vitus, Pentagram and Candlemass. However, there is one band that often gets overlooked by the masses: Witchfinder General. Some of you have heard the band given lip service in the history of Doom Metal and NWOBHM, but I believe Witchfinder General deserve more respect than is often given. They deserve to be raised high on their own Porcelain Throne.

I first heard Witchfinder General when I came across their eponymous song during a late night Doom research session. The song entranced me. The weight of the riff, the thundering of the drums and the high-pitched shrieks grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me violently until after three minutes and fifty-one seconds of pure aggression I was let go. To this day, it remains alongside “Gloves of Metal” as one of my favorite Heavy Metal songs of all time.


Named after the Vincent Price movie of the same name, Witchfinder General formed in Stourbridge, England during the fall of 1979. After a few months of practice the band played their first show on June 16th, 1980 at The Crown Tavern in Dudley, UK to a surprisingly decent sized crowd. After a handful of shows and a few line-up changes, the band was ready for the studio. In a single afternoon of recording the band had their first release, Burning A Sinner 7″, on wax, and in early 1981 it was released. What would follow was to be a handful of more line-up changes and only  a small number of releases (the focus for today) before the band initially called it quits in 1984. In 2006 the band reformed for a brief stint with a new lead singer and recorded new material, but since then have remained dormant. Though more infamously known and panned by critics at the time for their risqué album covers (which featured a topless Joanne Latham), Witchfinder General is a musical force to be reckoned with and will go down in history as a seminal Doom Metal band.

Soviet Invasion 12 inch EP (1982)

Witchfinder General, now consisting of vocalist Zeeb Parkes, guitarist Phil Cope, Bassist Kevin “Toss” McCready and drummer Steve Kinsell, recorded Soviet Invasion in the winter of 1981 however, the EP was not released until the summer of 1982. This EP consists of 3 songs; “Soviet Invasion”, “Rabies” and “R.I.P (live)”. “Soviet Invasion” is a song that takes on the political strife of the cold war and fear of the atomic bomb.  It starts with a subtle acoustic intro (a technique later used on Death Penalty) that gives way to a rock solid slab of Doom Metal. Throughout the song the acoustic guitar is shadowed in the background to create the haunting atmosphere needed for the lyrics. “Rabies” and “R.I.P” both highlight Phil Cope’s early riff structures and song-writing capabilities while also showing Zeeb Parkes’ lyrical beginnings.

Death Penalty (1982)

During the spring of 1982 Witchfinder General returned to the studio, this time as a three-piece, and recorded their debut LP in a mind-boggling two days time. The band show a more refined and tighter sound than on their previous EP and deliver an intricately written full length that many would agree has stood the test of time. It is by no means a technically perfect album; there are many mistakes on the record that the band members openly admit, but it only adds to the atmosphere and vibe of this Doom masterpiece. Zeeb Parkes flexes his eccentric vocal style and expands his repertoire as a lyricist with subjects that range from self-anguish, drug usage, murder, lust, horror, witches and witchfinders. His high-pitched shrieks may be off-putting at first, but under further analysis you come to realize how perfect a match they truly are to the music. Not having enough time to recruit a fourth member, Phil Cope recorded both guitar and bass on the album. By mixing the sludgy low tuned riffs of Black Sabbath and the quick complexities of NWOBHM acts such as Iron Maiden and Saxon, Cope solidifies his place as one of Doom’s greatest riff dealers on Death Penalty. 

Friends of Hell (1983)

At the start of 1983, after a year without gigging, Witchfinder General started writing material for their sophomore album and entered the studio in March. This time taking a full two weeks to record (still almost unheard of by today’s standards!) the band refined their sound with guitar and vocal dubbing to create a crisper sounding album. Shying away from the twice used acoustic intro, Friends of Hell opens with a powerhouse of a riff that is “Love on Smack.” The blistering solos of Phil Cope run wild throughout this album, weaving effortlessly between his thundering riffs of Doom. Cope really becomes his own on Friends of Hell. You can still feel the influences of Iommi (which could be said with a wide variety of rock and metal), but he does a wonderful job of blazing his own trail of heavy riffing and song structure. With this release Zeeb shows how he has matured as both a lyricist and vocalist, telling tales of sacrifice, the sanctity of music, the confusion of life, depression and death. The titled track fuses together Zeeb and Cope’s individual grandeur to create a Doom epic of admirable proportions. Though not as highly regarded by many as Death PenaltyFriends of Hell stands strong as a stepping stone for all Doom Metal to follow.

After Friends of Hell the band went on a short tour and recorded a live show that was later released in 2006 as Witchfinder General Live ’83, but they didn’t make it much longer than that. In the beginning of 1984 the band started writing their third album but due to label changes and lack of funding it never happened. After a few short years of being plagued by line-up changes, delayed album release dates and negative mainstream critical reception, Witchfinder General ceased to be.

Resurrected (2008)

In 2006 the band announced its reformation and advertised a tryout for a new vocalist. After 2 years they released Resurrected, a “comeback” album that, much like fellow Porcelain Thrown dwellers Cirith Ungol, just fell flat when compared to their early work. The riffs are solid, but the vocal performance fall short; the two integral components of the band do not have the chemistry that is evident on Death Penalty and Friends of Hell.

Despite their lackluster third album, Witchfinder General remain one of my favorite Heavy Metal bands and deserve a place on The Porcelain Throne. I bid you all to spend time with their brand of Doom Metal and enjoy THE RIFF.

(photos and info via)

The Porcelain Throne is a column for guest submissions, you don’t have to be a designated writer for the site to submit an article. Anyone can write about a band they enjoy that doesn’t get much attention, but you think their discography deserves a spotlight. Download The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines and send submissions to 

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  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    I never got into these guys as much as most of the NWOBHM bands such as Diamond Head, Angel Witch And Saxon. They are important though.

  • Joaquin Stick

    Only taking a day or even two weeks to record something is crazy. Not knowing much about the history of this old school stuff, was that the norm? I assume the costs to rent the space were crazy for bands without the resources. Great work Bossman.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      I think that was pretty much the norm, but I thought it was worth noting.

  • Abradolf Lincler

    knew this was btr, gj buddy

    • Abradolf Lincler

      also, these guys had some boss album covers

      • Tronc McBeefyBeardloaf

        Some of those album covers are making me have Smell The Glove flashbacks.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Thank you sir!

  • Dubbbz

    Good work, Boss. Glad to see another Porcelain Throne and another Boss article. Both those things >>>>

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Dubs, thank you for the kind words!

  • Hans Müller

    Regardless of how you fell about Power Metal, Gloves of Metal is certainly one of the finest tunes ever written. Metal Daze is a close second from that era.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa


  • I’ve only listened to the two main albums (Friend of Hell and Death Penalty)

    Witchfinder General is a compelling doom band that anyone who is a fan of any kind of doom should definitely consider checking out. Thanks for writing Boss!

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Those are really all you need, to be honest. Soviet Invasion only has 3 songs and their Burning a Sinner singer only has 1 other song. So 5 songs, 2 of which are rerecorded later, you’re good!

  • JWEG

    I’m pretty much always in the mood for doom, especially the genre classics.

    I know these well, though, so I don’t just yet have to pause my multi-week Doomed & Stoned Compilation marathon. Currently finishing up “Washington”, only have “Canada” left (did them in geographic proximity order rather than release date).

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Witchfinder “Hopkins” General>>>>>>

    • Joaquin Stick

      Johns Hopkins General Practitioners>>>>

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Doom bear of the apocalypse.

  • Edward/Breegrodamus™

    Boss “The Boss” The Ross >>>>>>>>>

    We were talking about this recently in the Facebook group, but Nicolas Winding Refn is remaking Witchfinder General.

    • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

      At the risk of seeming negative, booooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!

      • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

        I do generally like Refn though.

      • Edward/Breegrodamus™

        Haha. I’ve seen most of his films, and like most of them, but thought he crashed and burned with Only God Forgives.

        • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

          I’m just grumbly about the the trend towards remaking everything, no matter how unnecessarily.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            I can’t even keep up with them all.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa


  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    I saw a first press of Friends of Hell for sale theother day for $350!

  • Waynecro

    Excellent work as always, Boss!

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Thank you Mr. President!

  • tigeraid

    Excellent work, Ross. I have barely listened to them, but as the Toilet flushes me further and further down the Doom path, I suppose I should queue a bunch of this up.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Listen to them…

  • Cowboy Dick

    That made me happpy’er than a tornado in a trailer park. I reckon.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      I’m happy that you are happy about DOOM

      • Cowboy Dick

        I’m so tickled I can’t get my leg down. I reckon.

  • Thanks Bross. I’ve heard this name here and there but never knew a damn thing about it. Now I do.

    Long Shine the Porcelain Throne!

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      You’re welcome Richter! I’m happy to oblige.

      • more beer

        Damn Boss going all old school. I have been aware of these guys forever. But had no idea they did anything after the 80’s.

        • Señor Jefe El Rosa

          Old school is the real school.

  • Tronc McBeefyBeardloaf

    This is a name I haven’t heard in god knows how long! I think I might have some catching up to do.

  • Eliza

    I really like this band. It’s good that they can get some well deserved recognition through means like this.