Withering Surface – Meet Your Maker Review

2020 seems to be the year of bands returning from the wastes. I’ve reviewed at least three bands so far this year that haven’t released an album for eight plus years. Næstved, Denmark’s original melo-death export Withering Surface dropped their last album, Force the Pace, way back in 2004. Having formed in 1993, Force the Pace was the band’s fourth full-length record and not one that really stuck in the memory to be honest, hindered particularly by it’s dreadful production, including a truly offensive snare tone. 16 years on and Withering Surface are back, with many of the original members returning to the fold (bassist Jesper Kvist is the only truly new member) to unleash Meet Your Maker. Whatever unfolds in the next four paragraphs, I hope we can all at least agree that that cover art – courtesy of Dark Tranquillity’s Niklas Sundin – is pretty gorgeous. We can agree on that, can’t we?1

From the beginning of their career, Withering Surface majored in the sort of melodic death metal for which the Swedish are better known, namely the likes of At the Gates and In Flames. They didn’t undergone any dramatic reinvention on Meet Your Maker, which comprises nine tracks of big riffs, melodic leads, pounding drums and snarled vocals. The album begins in laid back, almost ponderous fashion with the title track, and it’s almost two minutes  in before the first galloping riff is unleashed. When it is, and vocalist Michael H. Andersen deploys a hoarse, semi-clean delivery, the first comparison brought to mind is The Haunted. But not The Haunted in their prime, rather on 2011’s woeful Unseen. For the first couple of tracks, it feels like Withering Surface are playing it very safe and have lost both the harsher, gritty edge to their sound and the technicality one expects from melo-death.

It’s not until Meet Your Maker’s third track, “Alone,” that the band begins to cut loose and let the energy flow a bit more naturally. The tempo and the aggression begin to rise, as something of a groove also finds its way into the sound (“Room 417,” which has an almost The Jester Race vibe to it). But this proves short lived with the Unseen comparison returning on the next track, “In a City without Soul”. As if seeking a way to just confirm the inconsistent mood on Meet Your Maker, “Leaves in the Stream” appears to get things back on course, closing on a killer solo to boot, only for Withering Surface to unexpectedly bust out a power ballad. “I’ll Soon be Gone” is a duet between Andersen and his daughter Elizabeth Gorboi Andersen, and packs meaty, mid-paced riffs, soaring melodic leads, and haunting duets on the choruses. It’s actually pretty good but just re-emphasizes the mixed tone on show across Meet Your Maker.

Two of the strongest two cuts, which feel more like early In Flames than weaker The Haunted, close out the album, leaving me simply confused. I really don’t know what Withering Surface were trying to create with this record. Meet Your Maker is frustratingly inconsistent, peppered with safe, forgettable tracks and a solid-but-misplaced power ballad but with a few genuinely decent cuts (“Alone,” “Room 417” and “Mourning Light”) scattered across its runtime. While the sound on the record is pretty good, with a nice guitar and drum tone, and everything where it ought to be in the master, it somehow lacks bite. There’s no edge to it, with even Andersen’s harsh vocals somehow missing that nasty, gnarly edge they ought to have.

Overall, Withering Surface managed to produce an album that feels polished but lacks the technicality necessary to carry that polish, while simultaneously missing the outright aggression to have any killer edge to it. Meet Your Maker is not a bad album, it’s a disappointing one. It has a few cuts strong enough to show that Withering Surface still have it in them to make good, satisfying melo-death. Unfortunately, that quality serves mainly to highlight the album’s shortcomings, making it frustrating as all Hell to listen to.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Mighty Music
Website: facebook.com/witheringsurface
Releases Worldwide: June 19th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. And no, I have no idea what on earth has happened to the colors on the thumbnail of the embed.
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