I’m not much of a social media trend follower. Maybe it’s a generational thing (read as I’m old) or maybe it’s because I just really couldn’t give a shit about investing time in a meaningless fad, take your pick. That said, labelling today Throwback Thursday, transporting you briefly back to the 90s and enlightening you as to the highs and lows of Withering Soul‘s third and forthcoming offering, now that appeals to me. The first and most noticeable aspect of this album is that it comes robed in an eye-catching and morose piece of art from the digital pen of Pierre-Alain D of 3mmi Design. Maybe you’ll remember the appreciable nature of his artistry on Ecnephias‘ Necrogod or Beyond the Shore‘s Ghostwatcher from back in 2013.
The second most noticeable aspect of Adverse Portrait, is that like 2011’s No Closure, the American melodic black/death collective still haven’t warmed up to the idea of persuing their own identity. Nope, instead they’ve chosen to echo the finest days of Moonspell and Dissection with subtle hints to Dimmu Borgir in the vain hope that nostalgia will get you running posthaste to your local record outlet. Don’t get me wrong, nostalgia and fond memories are great motivators, but when funds are limited and you already have all those albums lurking around on your playlist, why do you need Adverse Portrait?
In short, you don’t. Throw-away opener “Vestige” does little more than act as a warning. You’ve got a slow and serious guitar solo following what sounds like the strains of a crackling 90s era suspense movie soundtrack – it gives you no real introduction to the band outside of confirming that Krystofer (ex-Veneficum) can play a nifty guitar solo or three. “No Longer Within” (with guest vocals by Steve Sagala (ex-Enforsaken) and “The Dreadful Echo” prove more energetic and dive straight into showcasing the bands 90’s era Dissection and Moonspell fandom. The tracks are entertaining enough on the ear, but it quickly becomes evident that they’re overly safe and right down to the Dissection-like soloing, offer nothing new to make them memorable. Vocals are handled by Mykil and like the instrumentation, his delivery is safe and innoffensive, ranging between raspy growls and screams that bring to mind a less intense version of the late Jon Nödtveidt (Dissection) and cold cleans that although delivered with the gothic style of Moonspell or Type O Negative, never reach the bars set by Fernando Ribeiro or the late Peter Steele.
Withering Soul‘s biggest moments come with ball crushers “Awakening” and “Hour Of Obstinacy.” Apart from “Awakening” sounding as though it could have been lifted from the opening track for Zimmers Hole (When You Were Shouting at the Devil) and “Hour Of Obstinacy” bringing to mind the melody of Naglfar, there’s some Spiros Antoniou Septicflesh-like aggression that sets these two tracks apart. I guess touring with a band rubs off on you in one way or another.
The back end of the album showcases what you were given in “No Longer Within” and “The Dreadful Echo,” with the only difference being that “Shadow Path” takes a slight right into Dimmu Borgir territory.
From a production point of view Belle City Sound (Novembers Doom and Agalloch) and Clintworks Audio (Amon Amarth and Misery Index) have done a respectable job of keeping the sound modern, but with enough authenticity that it feeds into the Moonspell and Dissection nostalga. The compression could be slightly improved, giving the listener a fuller and more dynamic listening experience, but what’s here is not unsatisfying. Adverse Portrait is the band’s most mature offering thus far, but that doesn’t mask the fact that Withering Soul have underdelivered. Goes to show, you can’t judge the strength and individuality of a book by its cover and likewise an album by its cover art.