Witches Mark: Witching Metal Ritual

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Witches Mark: Witching Metal Ritual
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Witches Mark: Witching Metal Ritual
Power Metal, Speed Metal
Heaven and Hell Records
July 16th, 2013
Release length: 41:26
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Formed back in 2005, Witches Mark from Austin, Texas, brings you to a blunt and more violent side of Power Metal by mixing it with a punishing old-school Speed Metal approach. In 2009 they issued their first EP titled A Grim Apparition through Heaven and Hell Records, and four years later finally bring us their debut full-length album, Witching Metal Ritual. This latest recording also marks the first to feature Scott Palmer on drums, replacing Yevgeniy Dancovjucovic back in 2011. That being said, is this a strong album of darkened fantastical music, or is it essentially lost within the two musical genres?

Witching Metal Ritual is a bit of a mixed bag. “Bringers of Heavy Metal Death” is a darker track with a modern touch to it thanks to the police sirens that go off during the introduction, as well as the lyrics. The production carries a generally darker, and slightly hollow sound to it that the sharper guitars benefit from, though the drums sound very muffled with a hint of washout on the louder cymbals. The music is good, though sometimes you can catch the performances going a bit off time with one another, but otherwise still maintain a really catchy rhythm that is hard not to get into. The guitar work is fast with some technical riffing at times that reaches points where you wish some falsetto vocals would erupt, but they never come, only greeting you with a strong rhaspy approach with a decent range, and additional gutturals that act more like gang chants. “Glaves” sticks with this darker tone by introducing some keyboards to aid the crushing atmosphere. The slower paced track finds plenty of energy in the vocals against a truly grim musical performance that will remind listeners of something out of the Dio-era of Black Sabbath.

While a darker, sometimes sinister approach is common, not all songs are like that. “Salem’s Fire” carries another catchy beat with some passages and bridges that carry a Speed Metal touch, including a nice two-stepping build to a traditional glorious Heavy Metal guitar solo that start off a bit on the rocky side. The chorus has a bit of a heavier touch to it that feeds into the darker theme of the subject matter, but overall it ends up carrying a far less grim and burdening atmosphere throughout the rest of the song. “Witching Metal Ritual” finds the thicker leads missing in some spots, but the rhythm guitars do still maintain the rhythm well enough to build to the somewhat explosive and upbeat Power Metal driven chorus. The guitar solo here is easily the best fitting to any song on the album as well. It also completely departs from the darkened environments, and ends up just being a fun tribute to the style.

Witches Mark clearly put their all into Witching Metal Ritual, and it makes for a good release. But, that’s just it, the album is nothing more than good. Aside the title track, there’s never any truly awe-inspiring moments despite some solid performances. While only eight songs long, some of the shortest tracks can seem to go on forever. The rawer audio quality ends up a double edged sword as well, working in some instances, but largely hurting the bite to the Power Metal elements, which are the bigger focus than the Speed Metal laced riffs and atmospheres that sometimes exist. The mixture of darkened Speed Metal and Power Metal is something you rarely hear today, and it is executed surprisingly well, showing potential within the band as they continue to grow and explore the musical world they are building for themselves. Witching Metal Ritual isn’t that bad an album in the end, but one still worth checking out before you dive into it head first.

01. Brings of Heavy Metal Death – 3:44
02. Salem’s Fire – 4:49
03. Swarm – 5:50
04. Glaves – 4:44
05. We Die – 6:30
06. Cauldron Born – 6:40
07. Witching Metal Ritual – 3:30
08. Where None Can Follow – 5:35
Initial Pressing Score: 6/10

 (band)
Witches Mark

Digital review copy of this release provided by Heaven and Hell Records via Clawhammer PR.