Following in the footsteps of the one and only Mercyful Fate and along with some considerably more obscure acts such as Alien Force, Randy and Crystal Knight, Copenhagen's own Witch Cross must rate as one of the best Danish heavy metal bands ever. The band's 1984 album »Fit For Fight« is surely one of the Top 5 albums in the history of Danish heavy metal.
After a long pause, »Fit For Fight« was followed by the second album »Axe To Grind« in 2013 (originally released by Hell’s Headbangers and now re-issued on High Roller Records for a broader public). “I thought »Axe To Grind« was a great comeback album,” comments guitarist and founding member Mike Koch today. “We had some guest players/singers on the album and we had Chris Tsangarides mixing the record, so it was indeed a strong connection to the past. The songs were really good but maybe a bit too old-school, but that's what we wanted on the album.”
“We were blown away with how the press praised us,” continues the Witch Cross guitarist. “It felt good and made us believe that the band had done the right thing, even though »Fit For Fight« was such a cult album.” There was one exception though: “To be fair, in our home country »Axe To Grind« didn't get as much attention as we had hoped. But the concerts we played there were great.”
»Axe To Grind« was the band's second album after a long hiatus, so how did the re-union come about in the first place, and when and why did Mike Koch decide to record a new studio album after all? „I had been busy doing a lot of different music and wanted to write a metal album,“ he explains. „So I began putting some ideas together, and when we played at Keep It True in 2012 we had already recorded the demo for 'Demon In The Mirror', which we played at the festival just to see how people reacted. Along with 'Demon In The Mirror', 'Pandora's Box' and 'Bird Of Prey' are my favourite songs on the record. After Keep It True we decided we had to carry on with Witch Cross.”
However, Koch does not think it's right to say that »Axe To Grind« carried on where »Fit For Fight« had left off: “No, that's not true really. It's more a link to the past, rather than were we would have gone musically in 1985-86, if we had done another album. There's a song called 'The Chosen One' on the new album »Angel Of Death«, which I believe is much more in the style of the 1985 Witch Cross.”
If you look at it in detail though, then »Axe To Grind« is probably much closer to »Fit For Fight« than to »Angel Of Death«, the band's latest studio album. First of all, »Axe To Grind« was much more traditional sounding. “Absolutely,” finds Mike Koch, “and we even added an instrumental to make it follow the structure of »Fit For Fight«. Also, we went for the 80s sound to make it link with the old days.”
Koch, who sees himself as the driving force behind Witch Cross, although stressing that he “couldn't do it without the rest of the boys”, confirms that there is a connection between the album titles »Axe To Grind« and »Fit For Fight« (beyond the fact that they both consist of three words): “Yes, absolutely. And I guess there's a strong sense of Vikings and power in the title, too.” In addition to that, the fantastic cover artwork shows the link to Keep It True: “It's the guy that does all the posters for the festival. And he also did our cover. Awesome work.”
With the current re-issue Witch Cross opted to stay as close to the original as possible: “We have kept everything the same as on the 2013 release. We wanted to have all the albums on the same label and also it's difficult for people to get stuff shipped from America to Europe. High Roller are a great label and they are a joy to work with.”