Posts Tagged ‘ dark metal ’

Album of the Week 43-2018: Witherfall – A Prelude To Sorrow


Fans of dark progressive power metal are having a good few weeks. A week after the final recordings of Warrel Dane came out, Witherfall releases its incredible sophomore album ‘A Prelude To Sorrow’. Despite being aware of the other activities of guitarist Jake Dreyer (Iced Earth) and singer Joseph Michael (filling in for the aforementioned Dane in Sanctuary), this powerful combination of elements from various metal subgenres took me completely by surprise. With equal parts old school epic heavy metal melodicism and contemporary progressive touches, ‘A Prelude To Sorrow’ is a dynamic album that stays engaging all the way through.

Upon first listen, ‘A Prelude To Sorrow’ struck me as a more progressive take on the approach Winters Bane took on ‘Heart Of A Killer’, but that assessment may be influenced by Michael’s voice, which bears a strong resemblance to Tim Owens’ on that record. However, Witherfall is even darker and more adventurous from a songwriting perspective. Most of the songs are quite long, two of them even exceed the eleven minute mark, but they are over before one can realize how long they actually are. The immersive atmosphere certainly helps there, but atmosphere alone only takes you so far.

Musically, Witherfall’s sound is based upon a complex, but not needlessly virtuosic riff and rhythm department, upon which Michael builds some impressive multi-layered vocal mayhem. Keyboards are sometimes added to the mix as a subtle enhancement, but ultimately, Witherfall is really about riffs, rhythms, voices and occasional blazing lead guitar work. None of the elements ever become overbearing, because despite all their progressive leanings, the band knows that the songs and the melodies should prevail, however challenging they may be to execute. The songs generally feature a lot of twists and turns, but not so much that you lose track as a listener.

Naming highlights is not possible without mentioning the massive bookends ‘We Are Nothing’ and ‘Vintage’. The former is a masterpiece that almost feels like a three-part suite due to the acoustic middle section splitting up an otherwise monstrous, almost doom metal-like track, while the latter is a particularly epic power ballad in tribute to the band’s deceased drummer Adam Sagan. The powerful ‘Moment Of Silence’ has an oppressively dark atmosphere and ‘Shadows’ constantly moves from aggressive to mournful and back remarkably effectively. ‘Ode To Despair’ proves that metal bands can do power ballads without immediately sacrificing their power.

Anyone who listens to the likes of Nevermore, Morgana Lefay, ‘In Search Of Truth’-era Evergrey and Sanctuary’s ‘Into The Mirror Black’ should certainly give ‘A Prelude To Sorrow’ a spin. Though the music is highly atmospheric and Michael’s vocal delivery is fairly theatrical, the compositions and performances are so powerful that even those who are generally discouraged by such terms might enjoy this. Although I was aware of the individual skills of the musicians involved, ‘A Prelude To Sorrow’ overwhelmed me upon first listen and has enough interesting details to keep surprising me every time I put it on again. That may end up happening a lot.

Recommended tracks: ‘We Are Nothing’, ‘Moment Of Silence’, ‘Vintage’

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Album of the Week 31-2018: Moonspell – Irreligious


Depending on your outlook on music, ‘Irreligious’ is either the album where Moonspell finally got its shit together or the first step into the wrong direction. As a whole, ‘Irreligious’ sounds infinitely more professional than its legendary predecessor ‘Wolfheart’, but it also shifts the focus somewhat away from metal towards gothic. That was never a problem for me, as I tend to prefer the Portuguese band when the goth elements are most pronounced. A majority of these songs are still live staples at Moospell shows, which is a confirmation of the quality songwriting and the fully immersive atmosphere of ‘Irreligious’.

In hindsight, the change from ‘Wolfheart’ to ‘Irreligious’ was not as massive as some extreme metal fans may want you to believe. Some streamlining was really all it took to reach the sound of the latter the likes of ‘Vampiria’ and ‘Love Crimes’. Compositionally, ‘Irreligious’ is more efficient than the debut. These songs certainly are simpler in the sense that they are shorter and contain less riffs, but the arrangements are significantly more thought-out. Fernando Ribeiro’s deep baritone improved considerably in the year between the albums, which is undoubtedly part of the reason why it is much more prominent here.

Hardly any filler can be heard on ‘Irreligious’ and the flow of the album is very pleasant. Part of that is the way the tracklisting is set up. The album consists of a couple of suites that span multiple songs and a handful of stand-alone tracks. Fields Of The Nephilim’s masterpiece ‘Elizium’ was undoubtedly an influence here, given the clear display of inspiration from that album in the many clean guitar lines of Ricardo Amorim. Many may know ‘Opium’ as a powerful goth single, but it actually forms a continuous suite with the desperate ‘Awake!’, the cathartic ‘For A Taste Of Eternity’ and the brooding (and brilliantly titled) intro ‘Perverse… Almost Religious’.

Compared to what came before, ‘Opium’ refuses to let go because of its increased memorability despite lacking an actual chorus. That in itself is one of the greatest redeeming qualities of ‘Irreligious’. The album is basically a never-ending chain of memorable moments. If it’s not an utterly sublime chorus (the album’s most gothic moment ‘Ruin & Misery’, the borderline poppy ‘Raven Claws’), it’s a gorgeous guitar melody (‘Herr Spiegelmann’ has a couple) or the general horror-esque atmosphere of a song (‘Mephisto’, ‘A Poisoned Gift’). ‘Full Moon Madness’ still closes Moonspell’s concerts to this day and it does sort of feel like a mission statement. It is also by far the album’s heaviest, most doom metal-inspired track; don’t let that beautiful clean guitar intro fool you.

While ‘Irreligious’ is considered a gothic metal classic these days – and rightfully so – I can see how the album could have alienated an audience that felt attracted to Moonspell’s black metal roots. Those influences have not completely disappeared on ‘Irreligious’, but the gothic side of the band certainly is more prominent. Those who have acquired the album hoping to find some intricate riffing should be warned: the distorted riffs are fairly simple and there is an abundance of elegant clean guitar parts. Anyone hoping to find a more metallica alternative to The Sisters Of Mercy or Fields Of The Nephilim will certainly find something of their liking here though.

Recommended tracks: ‘Opium’, ‘Ruin & Misery’, ‘A Poisoned Gift’

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