Review Summary: Witherfall's debut is a powerful album that’ll no doubt leave a strong impression on fans of prog and power metal
2017 seems to have been a year for posthumous releases in metal. Several established bands like Pagan Altar and Bell Witch have put out albums in which a featured musician died after a recording was finished but before it could be released. It’s not the sort of trend that explicitly “starts” by any means but Witherfall’s debut album was where I sure took notice, as drummer Adam Sagan tragically passed on shortly a couple months before its release. I hate to associate the band with such a tag, since Nocturnes and Requiems is a strong debut by a group of musicians that clearly knew what they were doing.
Considering how Witherfall is masterminded by former White Wizzard vocalist Michael Joseph and current Iced Earth lead guitarist Jake Dreyer, the music on here is more complex and perhaps deeper than those associations would suggest. Comparisons can be immediately made to Nevermore or Control Denied as the crunchy guitar tone allows for a mix of shredding solos and elaborate riffs, the percussion is as lush and flexible as it is hard hitting, and the vocals always retain their melody whether they opt for mid-range bellows or layered falsettos.
These influences also reflect in the often elaborate songwriting. With a majority of the songs reaching over six or seven minute durations, a lot of ground is covered as songs like “Portrait” and “What We Are Dying For” go from chunky speed metal to Opeth-esque acoustic segments and back again without feeling at all haphazard. The exploration is made consistent and even enhanced by the album’s dark tone and conceptual narrative, though I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what said narrative is about.
As with many power prog hybrids, the degree of catchiness in the songwriting (or minimal amount thereof) may be this album’s biggest concerns. There’s definitely purpose in the compositions and tracks become distinct with further listens, but tracks like “Sacrifice” can feel a bit long-winded due to the rather hook-free approach. Fortunately there are still plenty of memorable moments with “End of Time” leaving the deepest impression due to the gorgeous acoustic work in the beginning, commanding gallops, and climactic choruses. “The Great Awakening” is also worth noting thanks to some ominously melodic guitar work that could’ve come straight out of the first two Testament albums.
While Witherfall’s debut may take a bit too much absorption time to be seen as an immediate classic, it is a powerful album that’ll no doubt leave a strong impression on fans of prog and power metal. I’m glad that the band has chosen to carry on in the wake of their loss and I think they’ll become a major player once they get more experience under their belt. With the degrees of confidence and control that are already on display here, the sky’s the limit.
“What We Are Dying For”
“The Great Awakening”
“End of Time”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com