Withem – The Point of You (Sensory)

Sunday, 10th November 2013
Rating: 8/10

When examining Norwegian progressive metal as a whole, Ihsahn could be viewed as the scene’s designated ringleader/spiritual guide (surely he’d love being called that…not), with a growing, healthy pile of bands tagging along. Trying to pinpoint when or why the tide has started to turn from the country’s illustrious black metal baseline what’s happening now is futile; the country has simply endured a groundswell of bands more interested in Dream Theater/Symphony X than Darkthrone/Emperor. One those bands is Withem, who hit the ground running with their The Point of You debut.

Not too much of a stone’s throw away from what Circus Maximus were doing when they were actually interesting (i.e. their first two albums), Withem patterns themselves into vocal-driven realms, with instrumental backing that while adventurous, doesn’t feel the need to be all showy. Therefore, tunes with some real grip go down, like on the staccato-driven “Miracle,” a number that lets lead vocalist Ole Aleksander Wagenius give his formidable pipes some stretching.  Wagenius is given more wiggle room than most vocalists in this realm, actually, therefore his chorus runs on “Burned by Senses” as well as the well-orchestrated/groovin’ “The Paramount of Lies” end up tipping the scales more in his direction than the respective fingers of the rest of the band.

Since we’re not treated to this sort of song-oriented, vocal-happy brand of progressive metal, Withem deserve a bump for The Point of You. In spite of the fact that it’s a debut, it doesn’t feel as such; the tunes are by and large, well-honed, instrumentation top-notch (it better be), and Wagenius should emerge into the realm of Nils K. Rue (Pagan’s Mind) and Michael Erickson (Circus Maximus). Obviously, ‘tis good company to be in…

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