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Everyone’s (and that means every metalhead with substantial taste) favourite Swedish multi-instrumentalist and producer is back with a shiny new project. Witherscape is a creative collaboration between Dan Swanö and fellow multi-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerberg (and his crazy moustache). Those familiar with Swanö’s previous efforts with Edge of Sanity, Nightingale and Pan.Thy.Monium will have a skeleton of an idea as to what can be expected from Witherscape.
Progressive death metal is the order of the album, echoing the emotive side of Edge of Sanity and Nightingale’s melodic moments. An essence of melancholy is inscribed into the album. Progressive rock and metal sounds ala Porcupine Tree and modern era Opeth can be traced throughout the music more so than its extreme components, particularly concerning the acoustic guitar riffs. Yet death metal riffs are chunky (think Bloodbath) and unforgiving, refreshingly bucking the old school trend in favour of a modern sound that compliments the sharp production. The guitar solos are brimming with emotion following Swanö’s ‘s rough clean vocals and ravenous growls. Keyboards vary considerably, from frosty as on ‘The Math of the Myth’ to inquisitive in a ‘70s prog rock way as heard on ‘Dying for the Sun’.
Largely mid-tempo, when the music builds up, it becomes more noticeable. There is infinite variety on this release and it certainly demands countless listens, like any good prog metal act should. This is a formidable contender for album of the year.
Dan Swanö is an undeniable talent and boon to the metal scene – particular that of progressive metal. Almost everything he’s done is worth hearing, and his latest endeavor, Witherscape, certainly follows suit. Initially, I was suitably impressed with The Inheritance, although further listening has dulled my initial glow somewhat.
I’ve found it hard to put a finger on what it is about this album that puts me off a little, and it’s with a heavy heart that I’ve come to realize that it is, perhaps surprisingly, in some of Dan’s usually fantastic vocals. He utilizes this gruffer approach to his cleans in certain places that, for some reason, is keeping me from enjoying this to its full extent, although the actual music contained within regularly verges on spectacular.
Guitarist Ragnar Widerberg is a relatively unknown name to me, I’m not sure where Dan found this guy, but armed with a moustache that would seek to bring out the green-eyed monster in every male character from the film Tombstone, and boasting an array of excellent licks and stupendous leads, Ragnar is a true talent. The guy leaks progressive metal mastery from his very pores, and complete with the dizzying heights of Dan Swanö’s song writing brilliance, the two create some absolute magic across The Inheritance.
The Inheritance is at its finest, I believe, lurking bang in the middle of the track listing. From the dazzling “Dead For A Day” which slightly recalls the likes of Edge Of Sanity’s “Black Tears” in terms of accessibility, all the way up to the Crimson II-style wonder contained in the excellent “The Math Of The Myth”, Witherscape shows exactly what they’re capable of. There are some moments which don’t work so well for me, housed in “Crawling from Validity”and“Mother Of The Soul”, although it isn’t anything so big as to detract from the album on the whole, and at least the former number houses a cracking mid-section.
Coming across as a mix between later Edge Of Sanity, Nightingale and Opeth with a few slivers of Moontower here or there, The Inheritance should, without a doubt, be high on the to-buy list of any Dan Swanö fan. The progressive metal pedigree displayed across the entire release should warrant a look in from fans of the style as well; hell, I’m sure melodic death metal fans might find some joy here too. Whilst there are some moments that leave me a little cold, for the most part this is a solid debut release with some real glimpses of brilliance housed in the heart of the album.
Originally written for http://blackwindmetal.com
After a long wait The Inheritance" was released, and knowing the impeccable career of Swanö, my expectations were really high. On this project, Dan Swanö joined Ragnar Widerberg, both multi-instrumentists, who seem to have a special connection between each other. The compositions on this album are awesome, featuring both death metal and progressive metal elements with a touch of atmospheric music which fits perfectly in the songs and creates interesting ambiance.
All songs contain extreme metal elements perfectly mixed with progressive stuff, containing odd meters and sudden changes from a heavy distorted riff to soft and dark clean guitar arpeggios. Also, you can hear great guitar solos like the one from "Mother of the Soul" and some acoustic guitar parts accompanied by the beautiful vocals of Swanö. Within moments the album reminds me of previous Swanö works like Moontower and some Edge Of Sanity and Nightingale stuff.
All vocals on the album, both clean and death growls, are unbeatable and perfectly combined with the music. Also the lyrics are interesting and elaborate. The sound is perfect, being mastered and mixed by Swanö himself as in his many other projects. Each instrument was excellently interpreted, in this case the drums and keyboards by Swanö and guitars and bass by Widerberg. After a couple of listens I noticed the album doesn't have weak points, the level is constant, and it's very balanced. You will enjoy the full album for sure.
So if you liked albums like Swanö's Moontower or progressive extreme metal bands like Opeth or Edge of Sanity, or you want to hear something different, fresh, and innovative, you will enjoy the album. It was made for both extreme metal and progressive metal fans. I hope this band would release more albums later, but now I can say the wait was worth it.
Outstanding tracks: Mother Of The Soul, Astrid Falls, Crawling from Validity, The Wedlock Observation.