Witherfall – A Prelude to Sorrow (Century Media)Tuesday, 27th November 2018
Dealing with tragedy has been a mainstay of Witherfall over the past two years. Losing their drummer Adam Paul Sagan in 2016 to cancer, vocalist Joseph Michael also took on the unenviable task of replacing Warrel Dane on a Sanctuary tour lined up for North America in 2018 opening for Iced Earth when he passed away. This second studio album A Prelude to Sorrow channels the fragile state of life given these close to home situations, in turn providing a cleansing and catharsis set to a familiar melodic power/progressive metal landscape.
The album contains a mixture of epic-length efforts and shorter constructs, allowing for varied exploration of the quintet’s diverse influence bank. Guitarists Jake Dreyer and Fili Bibiano can be savage and circular in a darker, progressive/Nevermore angle during the faster sections of the 11:13 “We Are Nothing”, but then hinting at tremolo-laden extreme facets for “Shadows” that spring from latter day Death/Opeth nuances. Joseph has killer scream propensities as well as a fierce some mid-range, combining the chilling edge of King Diamond with of course the upper echelon power and falsetto that put Rob Halford and Warrel Dane on the map. There’s a smoothness to his phrasing during the double bass chugging “Moment of Silence” where the drum/guitar syncopation marches into Dream Theater meets Arch Enemy territory (complete with Steve Bolognese blast propulsion when called for), while tenderness takes hold with multiple harmony inflections during the half acoustic/half-electric ballad “Ode to Despair”.
There is plenty to consume and absorb over the course of this ten-track, almost hour-long record – Witherfall adept at incorporating versatility through slower interludes and acoustic aspects to build up the heavier, melodic, and progressive-oriented metal present. Favorites can change by the day – “Communion of the Wicked” containing some thick engaging riffs and turn on a dime doom-like parts while the lead breaks pop in and out sometimes in the middle of verses, and the 11:05 “Vintage” dipping into Savatage-like theatrical territory, as well as Evergrey during the heavier instrumental section midway through. While many in this genre attempt to go for pure technicality and intricacy, Witherfall embrace an outlook that combines multiple genres and uses these influences to create songs that take you on a melodic journey – not an easy task to accomplish, but A Prelude to Sorrow is successful because of the attention to detail, arrangement to arrangement, note for note.