Saturday, September 14, 2013

Witherscape - The Inheritance

Witherscape
The Inheritance
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Swedish vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö is a man who needs little introduction, as his efforts in Nightingale, Bloodbath and Edge Of Sanity says more than enough about the man’s talents. And as for his production work, it goes without saying that his ability to man the console is of such a high level that he’s in constant demand, and universally praised for his efforts as well. So when Swanö’s involved in a new project, there’s always an air of expectation and excitement. And as expected, his new outfit Witherscape doesn’t disappoint one bit.
Comprising of Swanö (Who provides vocals, keyboards and drums) and relative unknown guitarist/bassist Ragnar Widerberg, Witherscape is the product of a newly formed alliance of the two Swedish musicians who have managed to put down an impressive collection of atmospheric laden progressive death metal tunes on their debut effort ‘The Inheritance’.
Conceptually, the album is based around the story of a wealthy resident of Stockholm around the late 1800’s who inherits an estate from a family member who passed away, and the strange events that occur upon further investigation of the said estate (The concept was devised by Swanö, and the lyrics were penned by none other than Novembers Doom vocalist Paul Kuhr), ‘The Inheritance’ may sound like heavy going for some listeners. But the truth of the matter is that song wise, the album actually flows exceedingly well, and the songs themselves are solid and accessible enough to enjoy - either with or without taking in the storyline.
As for the album itself, there’s a lot on offer here for fans, with the opening track ‘Mother Of The Soul’ showcasing the fusion of the heavier, melodic and even atmospheric elements that lie within the band’s diverse song writing style within the scope of a single tune. Starting off in heavy form, the song moves on to reveal a touch of progressive power metal in the vein of Symphony X with its tight knit/heavier style of riffing, only to drop out altogether to allow for some quieter passages that bring to mind aspects of mid-era Opeth. While it all sounds like a messy mash-up of ideas, the duo actually pull it off with considerable ease, and give the composition a genuine sense of flow. As you would expect, Swanö is in impeccable form on the vocal front, while Widerberg truly impresses with talents on the guitar front (Both in terms of riffing and with his extensive solos dotted throughout).
The slower paced ‘Astrid Falls’, which is the first single lifted from the album, is a personal favourite with its infectious melodies, its interjecting heavier passages (Which is given a huge boost with Swanö’s brutal growls) and its overall epic vibe.
Another favourite is ‘Dead For A Day’, which is another hook laden tune that boasts a host of memorable passages on the musical front to match the choruses, and some amazing vocals from Swanö, while ‘Dying For The Sun’ sees the pair bring to the life a bit more of a classic progressive rock sound and influences, with Moog synthesisers (Provided by Joel Selsfors) that would sit comfortably on an album from Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon/Star One), without diluting their obvious melodic death metal song writing template.
Although great tunes, both ‘To The Calling Of Blood And Dreams’ and ‘Crawling From Validity’ took me several listens to fully appreciate. Maybe it was the lack of obvious choruses, or their straight forward song writing that didn’t resonate with me straight away. It’s hard to say, but either way, they took some getting into.
The same can’t be said for the rest of the album however. ‘The Math Of The Myth’ is a firm favourite with its Symphony X like neo-classic power metal sound, while the depressive slow march of ‘The Wedlock Observation’ is given some extra depth with the addition of guest vocalists Morten Møller Jørgensen (Spectral Mortuary), Eddie Risdal (Ancestral Legacy/Legacy Of Emptiness) and Kuhr at various points of the song to help flesh out the concepts grand finale.
Finishing up the album is the rather short instrumental piano piece ‘The Inheritance’, which is good, but seems a little out of place here at the tail end of the album. But despite its rather forgettable positioning on the album, it doesn’t take away from the fact that overall, ‘The Inheritance’ is one truly impressive release.
If you’re a fan of Swanö’s various musical outfits from the past (In particular Swanö’s solo effort ‘Moontower’ from 1999), then you’ll definitely find plenty to enjoy on Witherscape’s debut.
I can only hope that this album isn’t a mere one off effort, and that Swanö and Widerberg will return again under the Witherscape banner.

For more information on Witherscape, check out - https://www.facebook.com/witherscape

© Justin Donnelly