Memento Mori

As hard as Lifeforce is plugging this as Entombed meets Dissection meets Mastodon meets High On Fire, I’m only buying a quarter of their hype; the Swedish death metal quarter. Withered, for all intents, purposes, regardless of origin (Georgia-hence the Mastodon plugs), name dropping and forced label based pigeon holing, stand toe to toe with the likes of Kaamos and Centinex as far as classic Swedish tones and surprisingly, possibly even more so.Pure Swedish death metal in tone and delivery is Withered’s M.O; crusty, buzzing guitars, dark melodies and crushing doom segments fill this short but effective album and it promotes more than a few Grave, Bloodbath and God Macabre (especially the slower parts) double takes. There is not a hint of -core in sight folks. Artwork and label be damned. Relatively unknown producer Michael Green (Light Pupil Dilate) has recreated Tomas Skogsberg’s famous sound perfectly with a raw but resonant ambience and savage clarity that hums and rumbles with nostalgic Swedish girth, and is arguably the best “homage” sound I’ve heard, Swedes (Bloodbath) and Finns (Chaosbreed) included. I remember reviewing an album by an American act called Invasion that did a pretty good Sunlight cloning job, but this blows that away. The sound that sprung to mind was the later Nihilist demos with their primal, slightly less polished sound.

Song wise, Withered are solid, as this is no Left Hand Path or Soulless, buts it’s easily the best US effort I’ve heard that captures “that” sound in productionand song writing. Opening instrumental “It’s All Said” starts with early Grave like chaos, before settling into a robust canter. “Within Your Grief” really fleshes out the band’s Stockholm comparisons with a haunting, gravelly main riff, layered, menacing vocals and evocative buzzing solo work. I defy you to listen and tell me it doesn’t remind you of Entombed’s classic moments (“Left Hand Path,” “Morbid Devourment”), but it’s over too fucking soon. Initially, “Like Locusts” wails with somber My Dying Bride-esque tones before erupting into a classic Stockholm melee of noise and then delivering one of those long drawn, scrawling out solos that Autopsy, Entombed and God Macabre perfected. I don’t know if Withered have ever heard God Macabre, but they sure as hell sound like them at times. Don’t think so? Just listen to the opening bars of “Silent Grave” before the song careens into a pretty blistering even more throwback Discharge/Disgust type crust explosion. Withered almost drop a segment (1:24-2:44) in “Beyond Wrath” that delivers the same sort of “wow” factor as the famous mid section of Left Hand Path’s title track, whether they meant to or not; it’s a direct comparison in style and tone. Just without the Phantasm theme. But showing the bands youth, they are too quick to take the haunting melody into a blast fest rather than take it somewhere more epic and morose. The feedback start, squealing breaks, and even slightly sloppy drumming of the pummeling “Fear And Pain that Cripples Me,” again cements the bands Swedish influences, while the classic gait of epic closer “Among Sorrow” not only cements it, it gives it Dan Seagrave cover art.

Memento Mori is damn fine album. Even with only 7 songs, they are mostly pretty long and at 36 minutes it’s a perfectly timed listen. And it’s an album that shows a US band (on Lifeforce at that) can be “un-core” and deliver a classic European sound without relying on in breakdowns or dual harmonies. Anyone who says this is metalcore, meet me in the lobby and I’ll stab you in the jaw, OK? I’ll be the one stabbing jaws. (- Dane Cook)

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
September 19th, 2005


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