Witherfall – Curse of Autumn Review

In the grand talent lottery, Witherfall hit bigly and muchly. They possess such a vast wealth of ability that it could be redistributed among any 10 lesser acts with copious chops leftover. On third album, Curse of Autumn all this talent is on vivid display as the band rips through wild, adventurous prog-power anthems tailor-made for fans of Symphony X and Nevermore. At every turn you’re regaled by the stunning shreddery of Jake Dreyer (ex-Iced Earth, ex-White Wizzard), the soaring vocal heroics of Joseph Michael (Sanctuary, ex-White Wizzard), the powerhouse technical drumming of Marco Minnemann (Steve Wilson, ex-Necrophagist), and the slick bass-work of Anthony Crawford. The sheer magnitude of what the band is capable of hangs heavy in the air every second the album plays. With so much raw potential and mega-competence however, comes a higher base level of expectation. All that talent must be leveraged into stellar songcraft and ideally, a monster mammoth album. And that’s where even the mighty can wither and fall.

When executing at peak powers, Witherfall sound like a high-energy collision between Symphony X‘s technical powers and Nevermore‘s dark, crunchy tableau. Lead proper track “The Last Scar” is one such tuneful wreck and this is the kind of stuff that puts asses in seats at prog-power festivals. Insane, fretboard frying leads and crunchy, beefy riffs fly every which way as Joseph Michael shows he can do pretty much anything he wants vocally. And the key ingredient? It’s an ass kicking song amplified by stunning musicianship. “As I Lie Awake” is a more brooding, restrained track at first but it soon ramps up to a stomping, riffy ode to dark, creepy things with another impressive vocal performance and a satisfyingly epic chorus. It almost sounds like Iced Earth trying to steal Nevermore‘s thunder and that recipe actually works. Also quite effective is the ambitious blending of black metal and Crimson Glory-esque mystical moods on “Tempest,” though it rambles on a bit too long. Hell, even the ginormous 15-plus minutes of “…And They All Blew Away” mostly works due to slick writing and stunning performances, though it goes without saying it could and should be considerably shorter and there are some segments that could be tightened up.

Alas, not all that Witherfalls is gold. Odd choices mar the album’s impact and hurt the overall impression. The placement of a short interlude next to an instrumental at the album’s mid-point disrupts momentum, and closing with a cover of Boston‘s classic rock chestnut, “Long Time” is a strange flex, even though they do a fine job with it. Add to that lesser cuts like “The Other Side of Fear” and the wheels start to come off the talent wagon. At 57 minutes the album ends up feeling long and sticking the 15-minute mega-track in the penultimate slot doesn’t help matters. It almost feels like the band padded the length with extraneous intros, interludes and covers for no good reason, and without these it would be much tighter listen.

It’s a pointless exercise to highlight who shines on any given track as the entire band is on fire at all times. If pressed, I’d say Jake Dreyer gets the nod for his absolutely bonkers guitar virtuosity and wicked licks. The man is a beast and slices the ears apart with his razor-sharp playing. Michael Joseph isn’t far behind, showcasing a truly insane range as he leaps between Warrel Dane-esque wailing and Russell Allen raspy crooning. New drummer Marco Minnemann is a huge boost for the band and his playing is tight and technical as all Hell. There’s absolutely nothing more you can ask of the players, except for self-editing and that whole consistent songwriting thing.

Ultimately Curse of Autumn is an enjoyable yet frustrating album because the band is so insanely talented but hold themselves back with unforced errors1, editing issues, and writing that sometimes misses hitting that next level. Even with these missteps the album still nearly reaches the Very Good mark, but it’s the little details that keep it grounded. If these cats ever get things to completely gel at the writing table, the metal world will get quite a vicious codswallop. Here’s hoping.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: witherfall.com | facebook.com/witherfall
Releases Worldwide: March 5th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. See the above examples and on top of that, 4 of the songs here first appeared on The Other Side of Fear EP, which dropped in January for some reason.
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