Released: 2009, Heaven and Hell Records
Witches Mark are understandably proud of their Texan origins, and after listening to their EP A GRIM APPARITION, they certainly have the potential to stand alongside fellow Texans like Helstar, Absu and Pantera without fear of shame.
Witches Mark play an interesting hybrid of old school traditional/heavy metal mixed with traces of speed metal and even throw in some atmospheres common to doom. They cite bands like Griffin and Omen as influences, and there is no doubt that sonically, A GRIM APPARITION sounds so early 80s that you wonder if the EP was recorded on 16-track and pressed on vinyl. Everything from the guitar tone to the mixing, production and engineering smacks of a band consciously harkening back to what is nebulously termed ‘old school’. And it works, it really does. There’s much nostalgia value to be mined from such an organic loose sound, especially when everything nowadays is tight, metronomic and compressed to buggery.
Music-wise, the hints of NWOBHM are quite clear in the Angel Witch sound, perked up with speed elements from early Helloween and with a strong American power metal stance coming from bands like Fates Warning (NIGHT ON BROCKEN era) and Manilla Road, A GRIM APPARITION is a wonderful trip back in time. And it might be just me, but I get a weird reminder of early Cathedral (HOPKINS) and Primordial vibe, although I can’t point to a specific part or element to back this claim up.
A GRIM APPARITION is not without its flaws. Certainly, the sound and production, while I love it, can definitely be improved. For one, the keyboards/synth could be incorporated a lot better, as it can be jarringly upfront at times. In contrast, Michael Lance’s voice could be brought to the front slightly more, although his vocals will have to improve, as they are too monotone at present. The guitar attack could also be sharpened up a little as well, although the organic looseness should be maintained at all costs, since it totally works in favour of the band’s sound. And I wish that the title track had a more natural ending, instead of the abrupt stop that currently closes the EP.
At its very heart, this is an EP which shows the band’s confidence in itself and the musical path it has chosen, and from my point of view at least, this promises great things for the band. I will be waiting quite anxiously for the full-length, which will hopefully make an appearance soon.