Witherscape
The Inheritance

Mr. Dan Swanö, the renowned Swedish vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/producer (Edge Of Sanity, Nightingale, Moontower and Bloodbath, among many others) has been rather quiet for some time. Recently, it was revealed he had been working on a new collaboration with the rather unknown fellow Swede and multi-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerberg after they worked together in a Swedish music store. Swanö handles clean & growling vocals, drums and keyboards and Widerberg covers guitar and bass duties.

The result is WitherscapeThe Inheritance: a concept album based on a young chap named Erik, whose entire family succumbs to an untimely and premature death. Erik inherits his family’s estate, including a property up north which he learns about for the first time through this tragic event. The story tells the tale of his encounter with a young woman named Astrid, and his unquenchable thirst, passion and drive to find out exactly who she is – a chain of events that culminates in an incestuous, out-of-wedlock twist.

The sound of crickets creeps into your ears and boom! Dan Swanö’s mighty death growls smash their way into the room in classic Swedish melodic death metal fashion with album opener “Mother of the Soul” before quickly switching to cleans and the tempo picks up into a rocking groove that just demands throwing your horned hands into the air. Complete with some very tasty lead work by Widerberg and quite a diverse song structure overall, this track is a great opener. “Astrid Falls” was the first track made available for streaming prior to the records release and while mainly showcasing Swanö’s impressive cleans and adding atmosphere and mystery to the story, it’s not the best representation of what Witherscape is all about let alone capable of but it helps set the stage for the journey Erik has started upon.

“Dead for a Day” is simply catchy as hell. Starting with a deceptive acoustic and clean sung intro, we’re thrown into the growled chorus “I wish I could be dead for a day, just to hear what all the people would say”. The acoustic and clean verse returns before that classic chorus is back in action followed by a disco like beat with more growled vocals leading into an awesome yet moving guitar solo and an outro of multilayered infectious clean vocals “To be dead just for one day”. “Dying for the Sun” is a standout track commencing with a soft bass kick and lightly picked acoustic strings with the title quietly whispered before fading out and the metal kicks in with a killer clean vocal and the stop on a dime and light finger click at 1 minute 58 seconds is completely unexpected but simply awesome. Around the half way mark we’re treated with guest growled vocals courtesy of Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom (also responsible for the records amazing lyrics and provides further guest vocals on “The Wedlock Observation” which is also a recommended track) and the lead riff at 4 minutes and 1 second is just sheer Swedish evil.

The variation in songs on offer here is just fantastic and is on display throughout the remainder of this kickass record. During the more progressive and acoustic moments, many times one can’t help but think of the almighty Opeth, especially their more glorious moments however that is no surprise considering Swanö’s hand in producing his brethren back in the day and also his work with Edge Of Sanity. A strong ’80s vibe on many tracks particularly vocally is also very present with Swanö’s clean vocals taking on a reverberating, throaty tone many times throughout the record which I can’t say I recall hearing too often on his past works, only his clean melodic croon familiar from various Edge Of Sanity records and the Odyssey EP appears from time to time. The cover artwork is provided by the talented Travis Smith (Opeth, Amorphis, Novembers Doom, Iced Earth and countless others) and the limited edition hardcover / digipak also includes two bonus tracks which are quite interesting choices, the first of which being “Last Rose of Summer” by Judas Priest which also fades into the beginning of “Raw Deal”. The second is “A Cry for Everyone” by British prog rockers Gentle Giant who are an unknown band to me however the original dates back to ’72. A short story of The Inheritance also by Paul Kuhr is included which is a good read adding to the overall concept.

I do have a gripe with the abrupt endings on a number of the tracks which probably would not bother me too much if they also weren’t followed by far too long gaps of silence before the next track begins. I would have preferred Witherscape to seamlessly connect each consecutive track like many other concept albums flow and bleed into each other giving the feeling of one continuous piece of music or story, but this record is a far cry from following any generic formulas or trends so this is minor. While this may not be as great as previous Dan Swanö outputs as Edge Of Sanity’s Crimson and the Moontower record and may never be held in such high regard, this record does deserve repeated spins and you will always be rewarded with the rocking quality of songs and musicianship on offer and find yourself doing your hardest to pull off those killer vocal hooks.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Gibbs
October 29th, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: Staylow

    Nice write up. I’m a total Swano junkie, so anything he’s even remotely associated with I’m all over like a fat kid on a cupcake – though I’m not sure of this one yet. I’ve listened to it several times now, yet it’s failed to leave a truly lasting impression. It’s quality work to be sure, though I can’t quite wrap my head around it. It will hit me sooner or later.


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