When you spend a lot of time sorting through an overloaded promo bin, sometimes it becomes hard to see the dark forest from the evil trees. You look for the big releases, separate out the worst of the unsolicited junk, and try to find things to appease the overly finicky tastes of our diva fancypants drama club review crew – it’s a real grind. And sometimes as you grind along, you spot an unheralded dark-horse that you just have to hear. That’s how Witherfall came into my life. Formed by ex-members of White Wizzard1, Into Eternity and Kobra and the Lotus, you could call them a supergroup and for once, the name would be accurate. Witherfall play ballsy, heavy, but still neo-classically styled progressive metal with strong Symphony X and Nevermore influences and they have more than enough talent to pull it off. Nocturnes and Requiems was recorded back in 2014 but is only now seeing the light of day, partly as a tribute to drummer Adam Sagan (Into Eternity, Circle II Circle) who unfortunately passed before the album could be completed. Appropriately, the material is dark, moody and emotional and when you hear the quality of the music and the writing, you’ll be stunned that this is a debut by a completely unknown act.

“Portrait” is an impressive introduction to the band, full of heavy, chunky riffs that undulate and surge aggressively with little breathing holes for Yngwie-esque noodle flare ups courtesy of Jake Dreyer (ex-White Wizzard), who was just named the new guitarist for Iced Earth, and you’ll quickly see why. The man can shred like a rampaging beast and though he usually keeps things from becoming a 12-story wank emporium, his skills are quite evident. When Dio’s cousin, singer Joseph Michael (ex-White Wizzard) joins the fray you get a highly versatile vocalist with a powerful voice who recalls the best aspects of Tim Aymar (Pharaoh, Control Denied), Zach Stevens and Ripper Owens2. The song itself is highly memorable and filled with tasteful prog touches but it never feels overly complex in structure, recalling both Helstar and the underrated Communic.

And the band is just getting warmed up as “What Are We Dying For” makes clear over its almost 7-minutes of stunning guitar-work (including some beautiful Spanish-flavored acoustics), powerful vocals and unrelentingly stellar musicianship. Joseph Michael uses a variety of vocal approaches to fit the different moods of the song and the whole thing just smokes with talent and ability. It’s not just a talent show though, as it’s a genuinely well constructed, engaging tune with nods to Symphony X and Savatage.

Though there are only 6 proper songs (with 2 short interludes), they all run between 6-9 minutes so you get a lot of bang for the buck. “End of Time” is a wild song full of exuberant fret-board gymnastics, soaring vocals and stunning drumming. “The Great Awakening” borrows heavily from Zach Stevens-era Savatage for a nicely moody transition track and closer “Nobody Sleeps Here” recalls the mystery and majesty of Crimson Glory as well as the meat and heft of vintage Nevermore.

If there is a knock against Nocturnes it would be the song lengths. While no song is undone by the pacing or length, they could be trimmed. Three of them hit at or over 9-minutes and despite the dazzling musicianship, some may not appreciate the epic serving size. The production is more than adequate, with a thick crunch to the guitars and a nice punch to the drums. The bass can get lost during the busier moments, but overall the mix works well.

It’s impossible to hear any of this without developing a healthy respect for Jake Dreyer. The man is a monster on the fret-board and his neo-classical style is like vintage Yngwie but with a more modern vibe. He deserves to be a bigger name and with the Iced Earth gig, I’m sure he’s on his way. Joseph Michael also impresses with his rich and varied performance. He used many different vocal styles as the complex arrangements unspool and he’s always up to the challenge, adapting and blending his voice adroitly. Adam Sagan delivers a thunderous turn behind the kit and easily keeps up with Dreyer’s lunatic leads. He certainly leaves something worthwhile behind to mark his time here on Earth.

If you love the work of bands like Symphony X, you should hunt this down. Even if you prefer your metal more straight-forward there’s still plenty here to enjoy. I don’t know if Witherfall is a one-off project of if the surviving members plan to forge on, but I hope we hear a lot more from them. Nocturnes and Requiems is something pretty special and I recommend it highly.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Self-release
Websites: witherfall.comfacebook.com/witherfall
Releases Worldwide: February 10th, 2017

 

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  2. I said, hush your mouth!

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    went through three pairs of underwear in the first 28 seconds of the embedded track

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Favorite new band of 2017 after 40 seconds!

      • DrChocolate

        Word. This is awesome. What, it’s only February 7th and already I’m over the moon about the 2017 releases I’ve collected this year.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          It’s never too early for a Top Ten List!

  • BaboonKing

    Name drops for Savatage, Symphony X, Iced Earth and Crimson Glory on a single 4/5 review?? I *need* this.

    • [not a Dr]

      Are they reviewing power metal again? Why is this not some trvly atonal blackened noisegrindslam?

    • brutal_sushi

      Am I the only one who is getting OUTWORLD vibes on this album?

      • BaboonKing

        I had not heard of them, thanks for the tip. At first glance, I can see the parallels. And Kelly Sundown Carpenter is a beast!

    • ssorg

      I’m surprised King Diamond wasn’t mentioned too. I get a strong vibe, especially since the songs sound like they could be about haunted houses.

  • this band is amazing

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Listen, if requesting a single track, 3 and a half movement, concept piece with shades of avant-garde infused blackened melodic death/doom – all played with a power-violence ethos is considered fancy pants these days, well… I don’t know how much longer I can be a part of this “website”.

    • Pack your Precious Moments figurines and report to HR.

      • Ferrous Beuller

        HR? But I only just climbed out…

  • Oscar Albretsen

    The Symphony X comparisons are quite justified, but I found myself rather disenchanted listening to the song, kinda for the same reason I never listen to bands like Symphony X or Dream Theater. Impossible to ignore their amazing technical skills, because the song is based on shoving it in your face more than creating a memorable song that’s built upon a strong melody. The verses seem to just be excuses so that there’s something between the next bland technical whirlwind.

    • Give it more than one spin.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Well, OK, since this is coming from you. I’ just checked, and it’s available on spotify, so I’ll give it a longer listen (other songs, as Dr. Grier suggested ).

        • Oscar Albretsen

          OK, listened to the entire song at a very high volume, and after the opening, it isn’t nearly as shw-offy as it had seemed before. Still not super structured, but prog rarely is (and that usually doesn’t turn me off). The chorus is solid, and the album could definitely be something I enjoy, but I still really wasn’t exactly blown away by this song, so I’ll give the whole album a spin or two when it gets released (and added to spotify).

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      You need to hear the full album. This song is nothing compared to what’s ahead.

    • Dream Theater, yes! X, c’mon…for real? The New Mythology Suite is a friggin classic at this point. Listen to it.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        I like Symphony X alot more than DT, and I actually own nearly all their albums. New Mythology Suite is OK, but the only one I ever listen to anymore is Divine Wings of Tragedy. I’m just more with simple, more memorable songs, and I find bands like Symphony X, Dream Theater and even Rhapsody to generally have songs that amaze me for a short period of time, but then I go back to “Viva Emptiness,” or “The Mountain” or really simplistic but much more memorable stuff such as “What I Like About You,” or “The Sweater Song.”

        • Try Lady Gaga? Just kidding, just kidding…i hear you. I think X though does write a lot more structured songs than DT who constantly sound like the are in a jam session. And the funny thing is that to my ears, NMS has very memorable, sing along songs.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            NMS is the Sym X album I’ve listened to the most, it just doesn’t really get me going much anymore these days. After the little chat, I’m actually kind of in the mood to give it a spin again now, though (it’s been quite awhile).

          • LOL. You’re gonna come back here and go….”OK, Alex. I hear you.”

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Well, I can certainly remember why I own it. Super catchy. Definitely is going to stay firmly in the CD changer.

      • I think DT are far better songwriters than Symphony X. They write memorable choruses and their tracks are full of melody. Even their wankery is generally memorable stuff and I don’t think their wankery is generally as wanky as the embedded track, which sounds rather like various small bits of wanking stitched together to form a big wank. I will check out the rest though.

        • Ouch. Couldn’t disagree more. Case in point: That last DT record.

          Note: I am a DT fan, have been since their inception, and own every record of theirs to date (at least standard release including the horrific last one). They are just horrible at self-editing. I think the world understands this actually but they get a pass because they are so talented as musicians.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Yup. This.

          • Anarchist

            Black Clouds and Silver Linings is one of my favourite albums of all time, but I hear you. I’ve been trying really hard to like the newest one, and there are songs I like, but…

            That’s actually one of the reasons I’d love to go to a Dream Theater concert. I feel like it’d just be a bunch of the best songs without some of the filler.

          • I don’t like the latest DT album. I think it’s too cheesy and the previous album was the blandest thing they’ve ever done. I can appreciate the song writing on The Astonishing, but lyrically I can’t stomach it and there are too many sickly sweet ballads. Musically it’s actually not that wanky though. I don’t think DT has a big problem with self editing. Their albums are long, but don’t contain filler material.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          You know those bands that seem like they’re really going to become one of your favorites when you first hear ’em, but for some reason, no matter how hard you try, you just never end up enjoying them very much? I’ve got a long list of those, like Epica and Mastodon to Between the Buried and Me. But of all of them, I’ve never put more time into listening/expecting myself to suddenly “get it” than I have with DT. They’re by no means bad, and they’ve had songs I enjoy, but I could just never get into their heavily technical approach.

  • Zach Ward

    So far this year I’ve been pretty much uninterested in a lot of albums reviewed, even the positive ones. All the reviews have been good but most the music i just haven’t cared enough about. That needs to change. But this I like, it has some charm that i haven’t seen in a while. Good stuff and great review.

    • Zach Ward

      And it comes out on my birthday. What a gift I shall say.

    • LORN? Really, nothing? Kinda surprised Zach.

      • Zach Ward

        Not nothing. But a large majority I’ve just been just Ok with. Not bad, not good. Only album I’ve been playing a lot is Hour of Penance. Lorn is good but Spotify is my main streaming service and Lorn ain’t on there. So with them I’m kind of fucked. The Old Great Ones I thought were ok, but overall I’ve just been dissapointed I guess.

        • Same. It pisses me off Lorn is not on Spotify too. I do however use the BC app on my phone to play it when I’m cruising in my 918 Spyder.

          I also thought the Emptiness record was solid, and in some spots really great.

          PS I don’t own a 918 Spyder. Not even the Matchbox car. It makes me sad.

          • Zach Ward

            I’m sure I’ll go back and give more listens to these albums I’m dismissing and probably enjoy them, but first impressions so far haven’t been good.

        • Oh I forgot: Woe.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      New releases from Soen and Haken have been eating up my time this week.

      • Zach Ward

        Completely forgot Soen released a album too. Fuck me I’ll get right on that.

  • Ta2dlam

    I rarely get into the power metal arena as most of it comes across as repetitious and boring to me. There are a few notable exceptions but most reviews that start with Symphony X will usually turn me away immediately. For some reason I decided to check this one…probably because of the Crimson Glory and Nevermore drops. I’m glad I did. This is varied enough to be interesting on first listen and I will gladly check out the whole album based on End of Time.

    • Ta2dlam

      I also just went and listened to Nobody Sleeps Here. Also freaking great!

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    I cannot stop listening to this. This thing shot to the top of my year list.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      It’s 9 minutes long, it feels like 3. A clear sign it’s… FUN!

      • Yep, these songs fly by!

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        Well, I meant the entire album, but yeah.

        • Reese Burns

          I know you enjoy some good black metal, so I’d also recommend you check out Join the Wind by Frostriech. Doesn’t have anything to do with this band, but any time I can sneak in a plug for them, I do it.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Ooooo… thanks for that. I will have to give them a spin today. Looks like they have a new album.

          • AgonMcDuck

            I went and checked out Frostreich myself based on this comment. Loving Join the Wind so far. Really good stuff.

          • Reese Burns

            It’s something pretty special, Spirit of the Lake is already in the running for my song o’ the year.

          • Reese Burns

            Oh! If you’re into Frostriech, try Burial Shrouds by Sivjy Yar, you might like it too.

    • Eli Valcik

      This and Lorn are my two runners so far.

    • ssorg

      This is really really really good. On the upper-side of 4.5, in my book.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Alright now we’re talking.

  • brutal_sushi

    Jesus that embedded track fucking rules! Thank thank thank you Druhm for the review of this! Also muchos props on the “underrated Communic” line… Yes, yes they are severely underrated.

  • Eli Valcik

    Please stop. I’m so poor.

  • All the joy of white wizzard with only half the embarrassment and shame?

    • See footnotes 1 and 2.

      • tomasjacobi

        You should’ve gone with 5/5 in honour of HMG since this is basically White Wizzard mark II.

        • How dare you??

          • tomasjacobi

            I’m one of those brave keyboard warriors.

  • Dead1

    See you can do good power metal in 2017.

  • contenderizer

    I love this site, but the collective (ravenous!) taste for this kind of thing baffles me. More for the rest of you, I guess…

  • DrewMusic

    I’m sure the actual number of albums each reviewer here has heard throughout their soulless existences is staggering, I think you’re allowed a pass if there’s a band or two you haven’t heard of. If you fine heathens at AMG ever wrote up your own personal all time top 20’s and divulged said gems to the cultureless masses, world peace might just become attainable.

  • WhamBamSam

    My younger brother sometimes laments not sending a tape in to the open audition thing that got Jake Dreyer the Iced Earth job. I reply that he’ll get another chance, but it seems like Dreyer will have a fruitful tenure until he inevitably spins out of the revolving door.

    I actually like Joseph Michael a lot better in this than I did in White Wizzard or his other prior gigs. He sounded too much like another generic power metal singer before, but I’m pretty impressed by the performance on the embedded track.

    I’ll have to pick this up at some point. I went a little overboard when bandcamp was donating their cut to the ACLU last Friday, and I always get a shit-ton of music at Christmas, so my rotation is a bit overfull at the moment.

  • GardensTale

    Judging by the embedded track, Witherfell may take the top 10 spot this year Witherscape did last year. Apparently Wither- is a good prefix!

  • Whoah, glad I checked out this review!

  • Treble Yell

    I really, really need to check this out when I have a spare 5-minutes. Being busy sucks.

  • BlackSoots

    White Wizzard – Iron Maiden + “The Viking” Yngwie = Awesomeness! Though I personally prefer Maiden over Yngwie, this really, really gets me happy! I see it (only a little bit, but still) that White Wizzard made a comeback, just in a different outfit ^^ I’m so happy!

  • Serjien

    Nice find! Thanks for sharing with us mortal souls!

  • Zach S.

    I wanted this album the minute I heard “Nobody Sleeps Here Anymore” on some news article about it. One of the biggest and best surprises of the year as far as I’m concerned.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Could be the one and only album, could it not? Wasn’t Adam Sagan a huge part of the music present on this album.

  • roderik

    Whenever I need my faith in humanity restored I come here to observe the excellence of the AMG staff and the brilliance of the comments section. Intelligent banter. Who would have thought there was any space left for that on the internets.. And Witherfall is awesome too!

  • Mike

    Singer also reminds me a bit of Wuthering Heights at times.

  • Edmund Sackbauer

    Awesome stuff here. How is it possible that they have to release this by themselves? Just ordered my copy for appr. 25 EUR but this masterpiece really should be snapped up by a solid Label.

  • Bryan Stroup

    Reminds me of a more technical version of Cage.