By 1987, heavy metal had firmly established its relationship with the occult. From Black Sabbath to Venom and beyond, the dark side was ripe for plunder. The emergence of thrash, death and black metal movements conjured up all manner of blasphemous and disturbing new music, and censored bells around the world were regularly transforming their collective underwear. It was, it must be said, a lot of fun.
Among the less famous contributors to the malevolent evolution of metal were the German upstarts Warlock. Led by Doro Pesch, the melodic speed metal team had solidly built a reputation in Europe, releasing three well-received albums and amassing a sizable and dedicated following. The beginnings of the group, Burn witches, certainly focused on occult themes, but this would be their fourth album and a major breakthrough on a label, 1987 Triumph And Agony, that would place Doro at the heart of a seemingly genuine supernatural evil.
âI went to New York to write the record, with our producer Joel Balin. He was older than me but we hit it off right away, and he showed me all the clubs and it was awesome. One night he asked me if I wanted to go to another club, but I really don’t drink much, and I said maybe we could jam a bit instead? So we went to his place, and made a jam, and then he asked me if I had ever played with a Ouija board.
Doro happily admits that as a teenager she was instinctively curious and fascinated by anything that seemed dark or scary. Having had the opportunity to delve into the occult with her new creative partner, she found it hard to resist.
âI had heard of it, but I had never done it. It was totally banned in Germany at that time, and for good reason I would say! Ha ha! ” she smiles. âWe played it every night and all kinds of bullshit happened. The apartment almost burned down. One night, suddenly, the Ouija board said “piano”. So I asked Joey to ask the spirit of player something on the piano. He was reluctant but he did, and everything seemed more and more frightening. Then all of a sudden there was a guitar hanging on the wall, and this little chord came out! I completely panicked. I was running out of the apartment screaming! Ha ha! I had to move out of the apartment. It was full of weird energy and I couldn’t sleep there anymore!
From that moment on, Doro drew a line in the sand and vowed not to attempt to contact the Spirit Realm again. However, there was still one heavy metal album to make, and his hair-raising brush with ghostly forces would inevitably have an impact on Triumph And Agony. One of the heaviest and most intense songs on the album, Touch evil, tells the story of an unnamed and possibly undead villain lurking in the shadows with bloody murder on his mind.
âYes, it was influenced by the ouija board, the whole experience,â Doro notes. “How could it be otherwise? It was so metal! Ha ha! So we had the demons in Metal tango, we have had Touch evil, we had Warlock magic, everything was on the darker side. I changed my mind about this thing after Triumph And Agony, and I became more positive, with positive energy, but back then I was flirting with that stuff. We wanted the record to be fucking heavy, you know?
Triumph And Agony is an album full of sparkling and bombastic metallic hymns, ranging from the opening vocals (and hit single) All that we are until the last ballad in tears, power ballad FÃ¼r Immer. For two specific reasons, however, Touch evil stands out as the most thunderous and unstoppable song on the entire record. First of all, Doro absolutely screams, especially towards the end of the track, when she seems to be really possessed by something nasty.
âI wanted to write something really, really powerful. We were writing it and I felt like I really wanted to scream with all my heart, really sing it like never before. Doing the trail was so good, because I didn’t feel any pressure. The record company had heard the demos and they liked it all, and no one was asking us to be radio-friendly like they had on previous albums. So we could just do whatever we wanted and scream like a maniac felt good! “
Meanwhile, in the song’s engine room, a certified hard rock legend was spinning sticks and racking up one hell of a punch. As Doro explains, it was the start of a recording session she would never forget.
“I said to my manager, ‘We have this song, Touch evil, and I think it’s really heavy, really mean and dark and evil, so I need some really powerful players on it, so I can really scream my ass! âshe recalls. âHe said, ‘I’ve got someone on my mind!’ He didn’t want to tell me who it was, it was a surprise, and the next morning I walked into the studio at 11am, and to my surprise it was Cozy Powell! He said, âI heard you need electricity! I said, ‘Yeah, real manly power!’ Ha ha! “
Best known as the powerhouse behind Rainbow, most notably during Ronnie James Dio’s tenure with the band and classic albums Rising and Long live rock’n’roll, Cozy Powell (deceased in 1998) was the perfect man for the job. Doro admits she was very lightly star struck, but the shoot that followed exceeded all expectations.
“Comfortable, he played Touch evil and we were all scared! Doro laughs. âWhen he played, the room was shaking and it went right into your heart. It was like a roller coaster, locking you in your seat. He was really nice too, really polite! I would have liked to have had a video camera at the time. He was the best drummer I have ever seen in the flesh.
With Cozy’s drums engaged in the band, Doro set out to deliver the wild and extreme vocal performance that she deemed necessary to do. Touch evil really, you know, wrong. Unfortunately, it turns out that sometimes you get exactly what you ask for.
âI went to my recording room to do the vocals. There was a very small window so you could always see if it was day or night outside. I work better at night, so I was recording Touch evil and really scream my ass over and over again. The headphones were still blowing up, because I was playing them so loud. But when I did the last scream I did in this song, and it’s a crazy scream, suddenly a ball of lightning entered the studio through the window. He came in, walked around the room, and came out. I was standing in the middle and it didn’t touch me, thank goodness because everyone said I would have died if I had. Of course, then everyone has really scared. The recording was so intense and powerful. Like, ‘What do we have To do? ‘ Ha ha!
âWhen we got back to the studio, everyone was afraid to listen to it again, in case something else blew up! But the catch was a keeper. When we played YOUR live for the first time in its entirety, I thought to open with Touch evil It’s a good idea because it puts you in a good mood!
Released September 1987, Triumph And Agony was a huge success for Warlock, not least thanks to the videos of All that we are and FÃ¼r Immer ensure a regular rotation on the then flourishing MTV. Two years later, Warlock would have to give up his name in a legal battle with a former manager, but Doro has started performing under his own name and has barely stopped to catch his breath since; deftly resisting the ’90s with dignity intact, and now firmly back to the forefront of the old-fashioned metal world. Triumph And Agony remains her most beloved album, however, and in 2017 Doro and his band began performing the entire record for the first time, on their 30th birthday. Captured during concerts at the Sweden Rock Festival in 2017 and in Spain the following year, new album Triumph And Agony – Live brings a new level of power to these classic songs, Touch evil (now promoted to show opener!) included.
âSweden Rock was the very first show for this anniversary,â Doro concludes. âEverything seemed perfect. I felt like it all happened yesterday, not 1987. There is so much energy in the songs, especially things like Touch evil. We know the album has a special place in the hearts of diehard fans. Triumph And Agony was the stepping stone to something big. Everything fell into place. It was a good time for metal, with Headbangers ball on TV and so many great groups around. But don’t forget that metal is also in great shape now!
Triumph And Agony – Live is now available through Napalm