Title: A Prelude to Sorrow
Label: Century Media
Release date: November 2, 2018
Format reviewed: vinyl LP
WITHERFALL was founded in Los Angeles a few short years ago. The band released their debut album, “Nocturnes and Requiems,” in February 2017, after a very dramatic couple of years, when their original drummer, Adam Paul Sagan (R.I.P.), fought and lost his battle with cancer as they wrote, recorded and produced the LP. The tumult of emotions resulting in a dark, epic body of music. Unfortunately, Adam’s untimely death came about before “Nocturnes and Requiems” was released to the public, making the album a last testament, to which the sophomore “A Prelude to Sorrow” is a mournful eulogy.
With the memory of their friend still vividly present, the nucleus of Joseph Michael (vocals), and Jake Dreyer (guitars), almost immediately started writing new music and lyrics to what was to become the concept album, “A Prelude to Sorrow.” Not a banal concept structure dealing with a timeline story, but rather, collectively an array of reflections from perspectives surrounding the frail subject of mortality. The efforts resulting in Witherfall sharing the grief with the listeners, in an open, public mourning with all feelings laid out. Lyrically, ranging from reverent, stoic and acceptant, to the other side of the spectrum: argumentative, inquisitive and resentful, all gracefully layering an opus of music composed and arranged structurally to what clearly reminds of a classical symphony or an opera. A lyrical, contemplative, majestically dark neoclassical masterpiece.
Staring into nothing
Only memories survive
Wading into darkness,
No illusions I’m alive
My life is flashing quickly through my mind
And begins to fade
Into the abyss, the eternal night
As my being slips away
Musically, and in part due to its classical roots, and the variety in composition, the tempo, and groove on the album varies with a certain frequency. The jazz/fusion trained bassist Anthony Crawford, once again adding such ethereal textures to the music with his masterful bass lines, is distinctively omnipresent in the final mix. Guitarist Jake Dreyer (Iced Earth) is clearly a neoclassical shredder of the highest ranks, delivering it all: from crushing riffs, ripping solos and sweeping arpeggios, to sensible Spanish guitar interludes and studies. Ranging in intensity, from soft clouds of airy melancholy to dense, pissed off eruptions. For the first time, Jake shared the new album’s guitar parts with a new band member, and Fortress guitarist, Fili Bibiano. Also, a new member to Witherfall (now a quintet), is drummer Steve Bolognese. Asked to fill vocal duties for Sanctuary, after yet another untimely loss to the metal world, Warrel Dane (R.I.P.), Joseph Michael delivers powerful, yet sensible, when necessary, vocals in a style and range comparable with King Diamond, Ronnie James Dio, and even Freddie Mercury. From sorrowful doom to belting, Joseph’s vocal range conquers it all.
Witherfall recently completed a few dates in Japan, supporting Kamelot, and are looking forward to the new year. Personally, I can hardly wait for the band’s show on January 21st 2019, in Los Angeles, with Ensiferum and Septicflesh. In March 2019, Witherfall joins Sonata Arctica on the European leg of their “Acoustic Adventures” tour.
Arguably, 2018 is the best year for the underground metal in almost three decades, not only due to the crushing number of new releases but predominately because of the infernally outstanding quality of music on a lot of these releases. So, standing out of the bunch is even more difficult than it would’ve been under normal circumstances. Witherfall’s “A Prelude to Sorrow” is one hell of a contender to Metal Album of the Year 2018! Totally devastating on vinyl. 10/10 Emil/UHF
10/10 Immortal Classic
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Used by permission. © 2018 by Emil Chiru / UHF