Withered Land
The Endless Journey

Do you like Summoning?  Do you llike long songs with epic orchestration over militant, mid-paced black metal with songs of ancient battles and distant lands played by a European duo? Do you wish Caladan Brood would hurry the fuck up and release a follow-up to Echoes of Battle? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then the debut from Belarus’s Withered Land is for you!

I’m not being facetious here, as Withered Land makes no bones about their primary influence on their debut album. Though not directly Tolkien-based, the vague,  over arching fantasy themes about a lone warrior’s struggles, battles and journey home, are as good as, and the music they deliver is actually really good, being as good or better than Summoning’s last couple of underwhelming, underproduced efforts. This is bigger, more robust, and equally as majestic as prime-era Summoning ( i.e  Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame.).

The 5 songs are all in the 6 to 8 and a half minute range and all generally deliver regal, stern, mid-paced marches layered with dramatic strings, and triumphant horns, but unfortunately, also having programmed drums. There’s the occasional double bass burst or blast beat and some ragged spoken words pushing the tales forward. But you know exactly what you are getting here from the opener “Through the Misty Mountains” (though not the Misty Mountains it seems), through “Wraiths Surround Us All” (though not the actual Ring Wraiths?) to closer “Death Was Always Near”, and it’s done very well, with some stirring moments and epic keyboards to satisfy fans of their obvious peers. The only thing missing is the more choral element.

The standouts for me are “Mournful Story Never Ends”, the album’s longest cut,  and “Over Distant Shores”. The former has some nice mood shifts and a more somber tone, while the latter has a dramatic, rousing atmosphere amid its slower gait, and might be the most epic, Summoning imbuing of all the tracks. Closer “Death Was Always Near”ends the effort on a suitably melancholic tone as the warrior’s story comes to an end, and even has a more traditional melodic black metal tempo shift about halfway in.

Withered Land has delivered a solid Summoning homage on their debut album, and there is a lot of promise here for them to take up the Summoning mantle while Caladan Brood is in hibernation.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 22nd, 2021


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