Witherscape – The Inheritance
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Dan Swanö is a man of legend in the metal world. From his works with Edge of Sanity, Ribspreader, Bloodbath, and Katatonia to name a very few from his “work history,” he has established himself as a key influence in the underground metal scene. His newest project seeks to continue his success, and I have to tell you that it won’t be much of a problem doing so. Witherscape suddenly appears out of nowhere and may have very well released one of the best albums of 2013.
Witherscape is composed of Dan and Ragnar Widerberg, a multi-instrumentalist whom Dan encountered as a result of sharing the same workplace inside a music store in Sweden. As they began to interact and discuss more about music, they found out about their similar interests and thus played with the idea of creating this said project surrounding a conceptual idea. This characteristic alone intrigues me to no end, especially as I start up the first track of the record.
“Mother of the Soul” immediately takes off with Dan’s bellowing and bestial vocals that could decimate a mountain. Dan also tasked himself with the drum work and keyboards, with Widerberg helming the guitar and bass work. This combination heavily works in the favor of this record as it comes off as a fusion of so many ideas, much like the composition of the members. “Mother of the Soul” sets the mood perfectly for the rest of the album, showing off the genre mashups that occur quite frequently. From progressive rock/metal to the likes of death and even along the lines of doom (or depressive rock, Katatonia’s different take on doom). These elements plus the theatrical phrasing and emotion already equate to amazing album status.
“Astrid Falls” is a song that you can’t help but put on repeat, even with it being a part of a concept album. The melodic beginning with the guitars draws you in, and you are so even more with Dan’s ferocious roar. The melody continues, adding in a very well accented bass. The power keeps driving until only the guitar remains for a very saddening, almost disheartening interlude. Dan’s depressing vocals kick in, telling you that the instrumentals were telling the truth about the event occurring. The ending result of these two fantastic musicians reminds me of one of my favorite releases of last year, by Dissona, which also took on a theatrical approach. This album is doing the very same for me.
“Dead For A Day” continues the previous idea, starting off with an acoustic piece as Dan shows off even more of the vocal emotion that he emits. It is amazing how he is able to suddenly transition to his ferocious, bellowing, deathly vocals so easily. This is also a track that shows off the catchy songwriting skills these two have. Although not one of my top favorites of the album, it is insanely catchy.
“Dying For The Sun” ebbs the pace with an ominous introduction that slowly transforms into a heavy, bluesy, hard rock composition further expanding the progressive aspect of this record. At around the four-minute mark, some classical influences surface with a mini guitar solo that immediately catches the ear. Although I’m not knowledgeable of the genre, I do appreciate bands that incorporate the style. You’ll encounter some heavy synth work afterwords, which overall add another taste of the power metal vibe to the mix.
“To The Calling of Blood and Dreams” can be considered my favorite track, just for the chorus. It immediately reminded me of Brendan Small’s Galaktikon, with the gritty, maybe somewhat jazzy voice that has been sprinkled throughout. This, followed by a cool yet inspiring vocal chorus immediately raises the spirits and inadvertently gets you pumped up.
The execution of The Inheritance really surprises me, as I was not expecting to be fully involved with a progressive rock/metal album that was trying to incorporating a full concept within the lyrics and approach. Usually, I find that quite a few of these types of releases fall flat on their face in more areas than I prefer, but this is beautifully well done. Each song is a part of the other, but at the same time they can stand by themselves as singles. There really does not seem to be a bad song here.
I know I’ve touched on the subject of this being a concept piece, but I usually leave the lyrical themes and interpretations to listeners. This concept is split into different “episodes” that circulate around a central character from Stockholm in the late 1800’s. He comes from wealth and soon learns that he has inherited a large estate owned by family that had passed away. The character decides to investigate this property as he never knew about this before, and in these “episodes” he soon discovers the house is full of “weird shit happening.” A detailed short story was written for the album and is included in the special edition release.
Even though I don’t get invested into the lyrical content until much later in the listening experience, definitely note the concept behind the music and the experience just feels more whole after that point. The Inheritance becomes a work of art as a conceptual idea as well as a progressive rock/metal album.
Definitely check this record out, especially if you’re a big Dan Swanö fan. And if you’re new to the whole progressive metal scene, or even just metal in general, this record is a great start. The showcase of great songwriting (both lyrical and instrumental) displays some of the best characteristics you’ll find in the sub-genre. With every listen you’ll find yourself becoming more immersed than before, and that is always a good thing.