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Witherfall - A Prelude to Sorrow

Label: Century Media
Format: Download
Released: 2018
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 8.5/10


Witherfall is music for advanced listeners. This is not an introductory 101 class, this is a Doctorate-Level course in 21st Century Power Progressive Thrash virtuoso Metal. If you’re not excited about this band, then you should be. Their debut, 2017’s “Nocturnes and Requiems,” impacted like a lightning bolt. The second album, “A Prelude to Sorrow,” strikes in the same place, with all of the intensity, power, and ambition of the first - - and then some. Singer Joseph Michael’s vocals are even more daring than before, as are Jake Dreyer’s guitar attacks.

 

The songs on “Prelude” are stage sets, constructed to showcase the incredible talents of those two leads. Joseph’s guileless, fearless, dramatic, multi-tiered vocal approach is nothing short of dazzling. Witherfall may be one of the most important Metal bands of the 21st Century’s second decade, and he is the right voice to lead them. Jake Dreyer, however, plays second-fiddle (or second guitar) to no one. He’s one of the best axemen in the business, ca. 2018, and is fighting hard to claim and defend his place on the shredder podium. Every phrase, riff, arpeggio, high-speed run, and slow, hanging vibrato solo is golden - - fascinating and worthy of study in its own right. His best moments are the highlights of the album. The song, “Moment of Silence,” has a WTF terrible chorus, but still manages to overcome the bad refrain to be a quality song - - in spite of the chorus - - due in large part to Dreyer’s dexterously-laid framework. Witherfall’s high-minded approach can sometimes lead to challenging levels of loftiness and complexity, like a magazine article in The New Yorker. Intricate can become tangled, complex complicated, ambitious overwrought, detailed overdone. The songs are never impenetrable, but are always dense. As a comparative point of reference: Imagine if every song on Nevermore’s “This Godless Endeavor” had been as busy as the title track, with nothing more straightforward - - like “Final Product” - - to provide some release. Sometimes, some middle ground between Rachmaninoff and the Ramones can make all the difference (Admittedly, I’d love to hear Witherfall do “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.” If they’d dropped something this straightforward somewhere into the midst of “Prelude,” it would have allowed for some tension relief. Call it a request.). The previous paragraph isn’t a knock, it’s just a heads-up to you. Witherfall are not going to fuel a sick mosh pit, their heady stuff provides more of an intellectual payoff than a visceral. The experience of the first song, track 2 after the brief intro title track, goes something like: “Damn, that was a good s- - oh, it isn’t over. . . . Oh, now we have some Opeth kinda thing going on. OK, now it’s over. . . that was cool - - oh wait, there’s more. . .” That’s one of the finest pieces here, but I’d recommend starting out with a few from the latter half: “Shadows,” “Ode to Despair,” “Vintage,” and strummed final tune: “Epilogue.” So - - Metal fans should come out en masse to support this band, as they lead the genre and continue this fine tradition into the future. I will close with one other request for Witherfall for the future. . . Their first album featured a few moments of beautiful vocal harmonies (which may have been all Joseph Michael), reminiscent of Freddie Mercury. Keep everything else - - all of the amazing guitars, drums, and Prog vocals, but bring back some of the melodic singing, like in “”End of Time.”

 
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