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Witherscape: The Inheritance

Witherscape marks the return of Dan Swano to writing and singing heavier music, utilizing his trademark death growls while also using lots of his amazing clean voice. Having joined forces with multi-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerberg, Dan Swano has released an album that spans his entire career: from his amazing death metal band Edge of Sanity, to his progressive solo album Moontower, to his recent work with Nightingale, and his criminally underrated albums with Unicorn, The Inheritance chronicles Swano's past glories perfectly while bringing forth its own character.

Unlike Swano's other previous band Bloodbath, Witherscape captures his sense of melody, much like Edge of Sanity circa Purgatory Afterglow and Crimson as well as his masterpiece Moontower while incorporating Widerberg's far-reaching, eclectic songwriting vision into the mix. Widerberg, with whom I'm not familiar outside this album, rather than trying to replicate the typical death metal riffs from Swano's prior projects, steps forward and does his own thing. I doubt he comes from a death metal background. He infuses the classic heavy metal riffing with the occasional outbursts of syncopation heard in more extreme forms of metal. Technical and perceptive, his guitars besiege the mix, often unexpectedly, but rather than sticking to the same tired riffing methods, they alternate between clean arpeggios, shred-infested lead work, and heavy droning chords without ever building into dissonant grooves. His playing is intense and visceral, but he never forgoes melody for the sake of brutality. His bass work is wonderfully sublime. Avoiding the shapeless, disjointed bass lines, he goes for the rounder, warmer tones, bringing counterpoint to the music, making it sharper and more intricate. On songs like "Mother of the Soul," he inserts textured, riff-based constructs into the sound, but his solos are so direct and immediate, you feel you're listening to a progressive metal solo where the guitarist really cuts it loose. It's far from mindless noodling, though; every melodic lead piece is harmonized with another guitar that sounds wicked, sinister, and sickening, never straying from the dark subject matter of the album.

Having written, mixed, and mastered the album, Dan Swano, besides delivering his evil, ravenous death growls and deep clean vocals (which are roughly split on the whole disc), is also responsible for the drumming and keyboard playing. His love of 70s prog is easily noticeable: "Dead for a Day," written entirely by Swano without any input by Widerberg, begins like a Nightingale song circa I before the growls kick in and a suffocatingly dense rhythm workout dominates the arrangement so punishingly it would sit well on the first Hail of Bullets disc. The aggression doesn't overstay its welcome, however. The song concludes with multi-tracked 70s pop harmonies -- truly weird. "Dying for the Sun" boasts a majestic mini Moog solo underscoring Swano's chthonic clean vocals and bestial, hellish growls respectively. Having written the concept story and lyrics, Novembers Doom's Paul Kuhr also makes an appearance here, stamping the verses with his evil death growl. All throughout, the song structure recalls the playfullness of Swano's prior projects like Pan.Thy.Monium and Karaboudjan. The guitar solo is so electric it has a live, breathing feel to it. It makes me excited just thinking about it.

Another guest singer is Eddie Risdal on "Astrid Falls." Risdal's singing is so different from Swano's; he goes for the shrieked, black metal type of delivery to add depth and colour to the mix. It sounds truly magnificent, given the song is primarily driven by Moontower-esque keyboards and dark, Opethian acoustic guitars.

This album proves that you can embrace melody while maintaining heavy, relentless songwriting and still experimenting with new musical ideas. You've never heard Swano sing as he does on "Crawling from Validity," using multi-tracked vocals over an amorphous, snaky bass figure that at once sounds funky and unsettling. Further, on the synth-laden melodic number "The Math of the Myth," he shifts from his throaty delivery to his super clean voice before delivering the line "I don't wanna die here, for you," which sounds so intense you wish he had used this style of singing on the whole disc!

The Inheritance is a concept album that can be compared to other works such as the first four Nightingale discs, King Diamond's Abigail, Shadow Theory's Behind the Black Veil, and even Opeth's Still Life in that it deals with a ghost story and that all songs stand on their own without being completely tied to the storyline.

Track Listing
1. Mother of the Soul (5:39)
2. Astrid Falls (6:56)
3. Dead for a Day (4:35)
4. Dying for the Sun (6:14)
5. To the Calling of Blood and Dreams (4:36)
6. The Math of the Myth (3:52)
7. Crawling from Validity (4:11)
8. The Wedlock Observation (6:13)
9. The Inheritance (instrumental) (1:18)

Added: July 4th 2014
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 2954
Language: english

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