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Quite a promising start - 80%

Aeturnus65, November 6th, 2006

Whether the power metal scene really needs yet another new band singing about all things Tolkien is certainly debatable. Indeed, Witchking bring very little, if anything, new to the genre, instead attempting to hone a style that has already been refined countless times by dozens of bands. For the discriminating listener this may be enough to bar their inclusion on a “to hear” list, though for more casual fans simply looking for some good epic fantasy-based power metal, one could do much worse.

This particular work is a self-released demo from a couple of years back, available for free on the band’s website. As far as demos go the production is stronger than expected, with a careful balance between all facets of the sound, no one instrument dominating nor sounding terribly bad. A bit light on the bass perhaps, but that can often be a positive in my book, especially if accompanied by a lighter, almost airier production with proper emphasis on the guitars and vocals, as seen here.

Of the two songs offered here, my money will take the second, the semi-ballad “And the Bearer Goes…” as being the more impressive. Chief among its charms is an excellent vocal performance by the since-departed Kamil Lacina, he favoring a lower, more epic sounding style that compares quite favorably with all the generic, copycat helium-fuelled wailers out there. Any reservations about future Witchking albums will likely revolve around the loss of Lacina, especially seeing as how ex-Hellfire singer Tomasz Twardowski has taken his place. Twardowski was fine in Hellfire, but his sort of screaming, completely out-of-control style doesn’t strike me as being particularly well suited for such a melody-driven style of power metal. Guess we’ll find out shortly, though I will admit that the new sample track available on the band’s website does little for me, seeming a bit weak compared to these two songs.

Otherwise things are quite convincing, the guitars having the requisite aggressive edge without losing the ear for melody, something that is imperative for the style. Comparisons to early Blind Guardian, a more dynamic Iced Earth, and so on are all valid, the band clearly (and thankfully) favoring the “speed/epic” end of the power metal spectrum. Even the lyrics, all in English, are quite well done as they avoid the choppy, unsure ramblings, many seemingly mechanically translated from some other tongue, that hurt many bands singing in a second language. Non-Tolkien fans will find little of interest in them, but hey, at least they make sense, right?

Judging only from these two songs it really does not appear if the band has any distinct weaknesses aside from the unsettled vocal questions. Perhaps the songwriting bug will strike on their debut, the band choosing to cram a full fourteen tracks onto it. Writing two good songs is one thing; fourteen is quite another matter. Regardless, the sole purpose of a self-released demo is to drum up interest in future releases. Simply put, for this reviewer, “Under the Siege” is good enough to all but ensure a future purchase of their debut album later this year.