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Witches Mark
A Grim Apparition (EP)
December 2009
Released: 2009, Heaven and Hell Records
Rating: 3.0/5
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen

Quite a line-up here, I mean in Witches Mark. Namely the band consists of current and former members of underground cult metal favorites Reverend, Panzergod, Ancient Cross, Hammerwhore, and Of the Fallen. The guys claim to return to all those glorious times of ´80s heavy metal with their debut EP when everything was still pure, virginal and new. A list of their influences ranges from Liege Lord to Omen to Griffin to Heretic - and to all of these early/mid ´80s heavy metal bands whose past releases have achieved a sort of underground cult status among the heavy metal loving circles.

Having been listening to A GRIM APPARITION with my careful ears for the past couple of hours or so, I can also testify to some of those abovementioned bands´ influences as a part of Witches Mark´s sound - yes, but they still have more of this modern approach in their songs to be labelled as a heavy metal band from that era. Hearing keyboards/synths here and there in between their songs, does not help me much to give them credit as a ´going-back-to-the-roots´ heavy metal act either.

However, the delivery of their songs is somewhat good, but not that great though. Some parts tend to be even kinda clumsy and a bit amateur-ish sounding, like they could not really have thought their songs through that carefully, but just finished the songs by jamming and not playing them professionally, and hoping for the best result. I really like this EP´s opening track, "Salem´s Fire", which is a fast tempo song with some good riffing and Michael´s effective vocals. Next song, "Cauldron-Born" is also a really catchy song with some heavy riffs taking command in this tune, and Michael´s melodic vocal parts making me really like the song quite much. It´s also a very varied tune that keeps the listener´s interest awake ´til the song comes to its end.

"Ethereal", even if starting out with a gloomy type of intro, sounds basically good for my untouchable ears, but there´s something in this song that simply does not click for me that well. I really cannot put my finger into it precisely to say why I do not feel like being ´home´ with this song. Maybe it´s just this certain, may I say, ´unorganized´ sounding feel that pushes me away from this song - I don´t know really. At least I can say that those keyboard parts don´t fit into this song at all.

The title track of this EP, "A Grim Apparition", is more of a mid-paced song and it has its moments, but it somehow tends to drag a little bit at places - and therefore ruining a full enjoyment that one could rip out of it. The riffing in it is simple, but still somehow catchy which I like. Also, Michael´s raspy vocals/screams surprise me in this song quite much, but in a positive way though.

What they should not have done though, is to include an old demo version of "A Grim Apparition" - recorded with a different line-up, to this EP as it really cannot match with the quality of this EP´s 1st four songs by any means - not production-wise anyway, that´s for sure . They should have saved it for their full-length album instead as bonus or something.

The ´hidden bonus tracks´ on this promising EP, are both well done, and I am sure that most people will recognize easily at least the first one out of them. I would not be so certain about the 2nd bonus track though as it also had me scratching my head for a moment ´til I received my own eureka! feeling. I don´t wanna ruin the excitement, so find out those 2 bonus tracks by yourself.

A GRIM APPARITION is a relatively good start from Witches Mark release-wise, but I think they are still holding their candles too much in the shadows as far as this heavy metal group´s true talent is concerned. But before that you may want to check out this first. As they say, curiosity killed the cat, but this only applies to those stupid cats... ;o)
Track Listing

01. Salem's Fire
02. Cauldron-Born
03. Ethereal
04. A Grim Apparition
05. A Grim Apparition (demo version)

* Plus two hidden surprise bonus tracks


Michael Lance - Vocals
Robert Williams - Lead guitar
Robb Bockman - Lead guitar
Andy Gonzales - Bass
Yevgeniy Dankovjucovic - Drums
Sandra Torres - Keyboards & synth

Other reviews

» A Grim Apparition (EP)
by Luxi Lahtinen

» A Grim Apparition (EP)
by Hanntu

» Witching Metal Ritual
by UK Team

Next review: » Witches Mark - A Grim Apparition (EP)
Previous review: » Witchery - WItchkrieg

Witches Mark
A Grim Apparition (EP)
February 2010
Released: 2009, Heaven and Hell Records
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Hanntu

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.
Track Listing

1. Salem's Fire
2. Cauldron Born
3. Ethereal
4. A Grim Apparition


Michael Lance - vocals
Robert Williams - guitar
Robb Bockman - guitar
Andy Gonzalez - bass
Sandra Torres - keys/synths
Yevgeniy Dankovjucovic - drums

Other reviews

» A Grim Apparition (EP)
by Luxi Lahtinen

» A Grim Apparition (EP)
by Hanntu

» Witching Metal Ritual
by UK Team

Next review: » Witches Mark - Witching Metal Ritual
Previous review: » Witchery - WItchkrieg

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