Witherfall – Nocturnes and Requiems (Witherfall Music LLC)

Sunday, 12th February 2017
Rating: 8.5/10

A collective brainchild of members with ties to past and present outfits like Iced Earth, Circle II Circle, and White Wizzard among others, Witherfall began writing for this album Nocturnes and Requiems in 2013. During the final stages of production, drummer Adam Sagan would tragically pass away – making this his last recordings. Guitarist Jake Dreyer, vocalist/keyboardist Joseph Michael, and bassist Anthony Crawford dedicate the record to his life, and for those who love a versatile take on darkened, melodic progressive metal, you’ll get a treasure trove of ideas and exemplary musicianship that provide deep affinity and connection moments.

Jake’s guitar foundation has fluid, darker overtones while still being very neoclassical and power oriented. It’s clear during the up and down runs plus shredding lead break for “Sacrifice” that a careful study of Andy LaRocque and Jeff Loomis comfortably fit his toolbox, gaining extensive points for his arpeggio phrasing. Three of the nine tracks reach the nine-minute mark, but there’s enough mood maneuvers and extra spices (through acoustic enhancement or instrumental build-ups) to justify the ambitious arrangements. A subdued, shorter atmospheric ballad like “The Great Awakening” gives off a King Diamond vibe, as Joseph Michael reaches back into more of a mid-range delivery capturing everyone from Geoff Tate to Russell Allen in professionalism and proper melodic emphasis. The shiftiness of rhythms allows Anthony and Adam ample room to flex some progressive chops – right out of the gate for instance on the Nevermore-ish opener “Portrait” the intricacies abound while maintaining solid flow.

It’s always exciting to hear skilled musicians known for other work get together and see what develops. Who knows when we will get a follow up – if ever – considering Jake’s recent upswing to second guitarist slot in Iced Earth, plus filling the drum chair. Nocturnes and Requiems adheres to a moody, dark framework in the melodic, progressive metal realm, and a fine work for those who love Nevermore, Dream Theater, and a bit of that 80’s Shrapnel neoclassical edge. Witherfall are another US metal act to hoist with pride for those who believe there isn’t anything exciting or relevant from newer bands these days.

Witherfall official website