Review Summary: Progressive metal with neoclassical inclinations and a haunting atmosphere. In other words, fans of King Diamond miss this one at your own risk.
Progressive metal can be so rewarding when it’s performed by musicians who have gotten over themselves. Granted, a significant percentage of those who indulge in overly complex music probably haven’t gotten over themselves fully. But there is a fine line where technicality meets the foundation of music – songwriting – and then something special is born.
It might be too soon to characterize Nocturnes and Requiems
as special but Witherfall seem to have found that thin red line which separates real music from unadulterated wankery. With influences ranging from King Diamond to Dream Theater and Symphony X, the Los Angeles outfit’s debut is coherent and at the same time has a cinematic quality. These characteristics make it a fairly easy listen, despite the fact that it includes all the elements of a typical progressive metal album. One can find odd time signatures and long tracks but at the same time there is an emphasis on melody and catchiness. Album standout “End of Time” for example, includes some memorable vocal lines, acoustic guitar passages and feels like it lasts significantly less than it actually does.
The guitar playing will bring to your mind legends like Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman and Jason Becker while the tone resembles that of John Petrucci. Moreover, the soloing and some of the leads add a neoclassical flavor which offers even more variety. The vocals are quite theatrical and range from cleans that might bring to your mind Zak Stevens, to gruff singing and falsettos. In addition, the drumming accents everything and even though this is a self-produced LP, the level of production is quite high with the exception of the bass which could and should have been more audible.
Going back to the atmosphere of the album, the bookends are fairly representative of the whole; the opener is dark and evokes a feeling of anxiety whereas the closer is calm and gives a sense of closure. There are many epic and grandiose moments backed by a variety of riffs and a few serene passages within songs and in the form of interludes and what feels like transitional track (“The Great Awakening”).
Overall, where the album succeeds is on songwriting. Progressive metal bands many times tend to be too technical for their own benefit. However on Nocturnes and Requiems
, Witherfall retain all the positive qualities of the genre and enrich them with memorable melodies, an emotional background and all these on 47 minutes of running time.