Review Summary: A progressive and melodic death metal album that has all the variety and balance one could want, but lacks a distinct direction.
Just when you thought you had heard every musical gem 2013 had to offer the metal community, along came a band called Witherscape. The band is a project of Nightingale frontman Dan Swano. Despite playing progressive rock in Nightingale, Swano has adopted a much heavier style consisting of melodic death metal with progressive elements. The album does a good job mixing the old with the new, so to speak, and despite being essentially a side project, the material is strong enough to stand on it's own.
Notwithstanding it's death metal tag, “The inheritance” isn’t by any means dominated by the genre, and is surprisingly accessible. Nearly each track is extremely melodic and emotionally charged. Song progression showcases a lot of variety as demonstrated by the opener, “Mother of the Soul”. The band seamlessly transitions between dark and broodingly gothic atmospheres that contains acoustic guitar play reminiscent of Opeth, and mid-tempo, heavy riffing. It is this ability to write songs with both styles that makes Witherscape truly stand out, as "The Inheritance" offers material that is if filled with desolation and beauty one minute, and extreme and brutal material filled with rage the next. The vocals change with the instrumentals, with heavy riffing accompanied by hoarse death growling and clean singing blending with acoustic mellow moments. Swano demonstrates good command of both vocal styles and the whole band does a good job of holding the listener’s rapt attention. “The Inheritance” will often surprise listeners with the sheer amount of material crammed into each track, but this is where some listeners may get lost, however, as some songs try to accomplish too much and do not have much direction. Far too often you may find yourself really digging a certain riff or harmony, and right when you thought the band had found their stride, they are pursuing a different direction altogether. Many songs sound as if the band is building towards one final extraordinary climactic point, yet the band unfortunately never quite reaches it.
That being said though, Witherscape is an album that can be digested in many, many ways. The lack of a clear direction is a fine problem to have when you consider the amount of material that is here. This album has the kind of variety you would expect from an Opeth album, and it does a fine job of mixing modern death metal with traditional and progressive influences. It may click on your first listen, or it may take several to fully understand, but one thing that is crystal clear, is that this band deserves way more attention. You can hear the blood, sweat and tears that went into crafting this record, and it gives you a level of appreciation that is rarely found in modern metal.