Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary (Century Media)Monday, 25th July 2016
Ideally, Dan Swanö would alternate Nightingale and Witherscape albums every other year, giving his devoted throng what amounts to the best of both worlds: gorgeous progressive rock, and adventurous progressive death metal. Now, Swanö is usually tied to his producer/engineer chair, but the quality of the two above-mentioned bands is unmistakable, especially Witherscape, who have only improved with their sophomore, The Northern Silence, the follow-up to 2013’s well-received The Inheritance.
Swanö, along with his partner Ragnar Widerberg (he’s on guitars) have partially beefed up the death metal component that hung around on The Inheritance. Sure, Swanö still throws around his classic ‘70s keyboard bits and bobs of the unmistakable nature (the opening rung of “Wake of Infinity” is perhaps the best example), but the album’s real worth is found in Widerberg’s riff combos. Quite easy to work with the edgy strokes found on “Wake of Infinity,” or “God of Ruin,” where instant song craft is just rewards. As expected, piles of melody run amok, with Swanö’s keyboard work taking charge on “Divinity,” while his always-magnificent clean vocals are the focus on “The Examiner” and the lengthy title track.
Whereas The Inheritance could be seen as a niche release, The Northern Sanctuary fills a rather obvious void in memorable, song-first death metal. Just like the old days in Edge of Sanity circa Purgatory Afterglow. And yes, yours truly will forever be a Swanö supporter, for the man’s resume is as varied and valuable as they come, but the fact he and Widerberg are operating on such a high level on The Northern Sanctuary further legitimizes Witherscape.