I always have a soft spot for bands with a cool name. And frankly, Witches' Mark is a damn cool name indeed. And also a name that won't lie to the listener : with a name like that and the look of the musicians, you'll expect nothing but old school Metal, and this is just what you'll get. However, this won't be the usual Doom n' Stoner genre we've been accustomed to see around here, but simple classic Heavy.
Now, the Austin-based band is quite good at recreating that spirit that was so prevalent in the 80's (for those of us lucky enough to have known it), or at least a correct rendition for the new generation. Musically, it's über-classic Power Metal the US way. No need to expect anything even remotely european in the sound, nor even a small part with arrangements here : it's hard and straight into your face, with obviously some basic riffs and song structures designed only to make you bang your head and spill your beer. Now, presented this way, you could think that it's just another of those shitty wannabe-Metal bands of the MTV generation spawned by the success of the awful 3 Inches Of Blood. And luckily for us, it isn't the case. As classic as it may sound, the Power/Heavy Metal from Witches' Mark is something coming right from their guts and their love for the old ways. No clean sound, no arrangements.
The vocals are what makes this album stands a bit above the mass. They have this kind of wicked, creepy vibe that made so many US Power Metal good back in the days. Not just your usual castrato screams, but also an EVIL sound. It's just too bad that the rest of the music sits on the average throne. Honestly, I would like to praise this album, as it delivers the goods on more than one occasion, but it seems to me that Witches' Mark have spent too much time in trying to emulate the old sound (and sometimes even the cheesiness of that period, like on the opener “Bringer Of Heavy Metal Death”)and not enough on actually writing real songs. This makes the album a pleasant listening, but one that is easily forgotten on the disc stops.
There are around 4/5 cool tracks in the records, some even being actually really great (“Salem's Fire” deserves to become a classic song for the band), but mostly the album suffers from wanting to be both goofy and serious. Some improvements could be also done in the mix, as it is not that good. Maybe it's that I'm becoming grimpy in my old age, that young bands wanting to take the various vacant places left in the US Power Metal scene doesn't manage to grab me by the balls like it still was in my teens. Witches' Mark are on the good path, I just expect that next time they'll have exploited the potential I see in them to the fullest. I'm pretty sure that they can do way better than this.