(9/10) It was in 2013 when mastermind Dan Swanö and his ‘partner in crime, Ragnar Widerberg’ released the well-perceived Witherscape debut. “The Inheritance” was a big success, followed by “The New Tomorrow”, an EP that helped bridging the waiting time until the sophomore “The Northern Sanctuary” has been finished.
The bridging phase comes to an end and Witherscape releases their new album the other day. The two multi-instrumentalists worked on nine new songs of which the last one can be seen more as an outro.
As the debut, also the new record is a kind of musical ‘Kinder-egg’. You know that it’s delicious but you still have to live, or appreciate, a certain surprise factor that makes to hard to predict of what you get.
It least from a lyrical standpoint the album shows a certain continuity. It is still about the “Mannen I vitt” (The man in white”) that stands in the middle of this concept album. There is a 50 years time jump and the white man has purchased the house where all the horror happened. He rents out rooms to urban people, searching for some silence and peace. But instead of the wished harmony his ‘patients’ need to suffer from terrible things.
The musical part his harder to foresee since the two guys combined so many different influences to a totality that still stands like a rock.
The album starts soft. It’s a piano that introduces the listener to “The Northern Sanctuary”. What follows is a creepy opener that switches between softness and brutality. There are growling outbreaks that lead to clean melodic vocal lines, combined in a way that it becomes an exciting piece of music rather than a tech orgy.
“In the Eyes of the Idol” follows the same pattern, but is kept more straightforward. The tune is easy to digest since it is, even with the growls, very easy going, reminding me partly of some older Pretty Maids (the parts without the growls).
One of the prog pearls on “The Northern Sanctuary” is called “Rapture Ballet” and it feels like Dream Theater providing the blueprint for this great metal song. The way the tune is arranged is similar with the prog legend, just a bit harder and a bit more thrilling.
Another twist can be explored with “God of Ruin” that comes again with some growls by Swanö while the tune in general is more a classic prog rock tune that lives and dies by it’s spherefulness. Especially the silent middle section is a highlight, followed by a rude outburst towards the end.
That social media can also lead to a challenging situation is the background of the title track. Getting a comment saying “Stop playing it so safe” was the trigger for Swanö to write this tune. After having heard the song several times I can tell you that the duo doesn’t ‘play safe’. This tune has so many layers and so much to discover, it’s almost like an onion of which you peal off layer by layer for just getting closer to the core. 70’s rock meets death metal eruptions meets bombastic sounds meet cinematic expression, all embedded in this 13 minutes masterpiece.
“The Northern Sanctuary” became the expected impressive second album of Witherscape that combines musical brutality with fragile finesse. Two thumbs up.
- Wake of Infinity
- In the Eyes of Idols
- Rapture Ballet
- The Examiner
- God of Ruin
- The Northern Sanctuary
- Vila I Frid
Label: Century Media
Genre: Progressive Death Metal
Release Date EU: July 22nd, 2016