Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: 18/06/2021
Country: United States
Every now and then you stumble across an album that immediately makes an impact on you and you wonder how you managed to miss it when it was first released. You think to yourself “this album should have gotten so much hype and praise that there is now way I could possibly not have heard about it.”
This is very much the case for Atlanta band Withered and their latest offering Veloren, released on June 18th on Season of Mist. If you’re like me and hadn’t heard of the band prior to this album you should know that they play a caustic and chaotic blend of progressive black and death metal, sludge, grindcore, doom and harsh noise. The band are Beau Brandon (drums), Dan Caycedo (vocals and guitars), Rafay Nabeel (bass) and Mike Thompson (vocals and guitar). The album also has a guest appearance from Ethan McCarthy (Primitive Man) on “Passing through…” which is a noise track done under his “Many Blessings” name using field recordings Mike Thompson made at a family funeral.
From start to finish the album is a wild ride that takes the listener crashing through harsh noise walls, leaves them soaking in depressive atmospheric quagmires and berates them with waves of raw aggression. If some people aren’t careful, they could suffer from overstimulation. However, if you’re like me this is exactly how you love your music to be.
This is probably some of the best use of clean vocals in harsh/extreme music that I’ve ever heard. They aren’t given any special treatment or forced to shine on their own which is what makes them work so well. They’re just one more element in the overall mix, operating just as the varied harsh vocals do. Personally, for the most part I’m not a fan of extreme music that switches back and forth taking turns between clean and harsh. I feel like the balancing act can feel a little forced in many instances. There are of course exceptions to this but as a general rule I don’t feel as if it works all that well. However, the faded and distorted clean vocals than emanate through the mix in a melancholy and haunting manor really help make this album unique and I can’t get enough of them.
As far as the harsh vocals are concerned, we have a mix of powerful cavernous death metal style vocals, guttural sludge style vocals and raw screeched vocals that are probably closest to a black metal in nature. The constant switching back and forth between the three styles along with the inclusion of the aforementioned clean vocals makes the album a captivating listen: and that’s without even discussing the instrumentals yet.
Musically speaking the release is an ever shifting and changing beast. The lines between genres are consistently blurred, with no clear distinction of what you’re listening to. You’ll pick up elements of each genre throughout, but they roll seamlessly from one into the other. Death, black, sludge and doom elements are all intertwined to form one harsh and depressive blend and elements of grind make guest appearances at several points. The harsh noise elements on the release appear from time to time and make up track 5 as a whole.
On an individual instrumental level, I have to give heavy praise to the guitar and drum work on the album. Both elements are simply fantastic and widely varied. Guitars wise the band manage to capture the aggression and technicality of death metal as well as the bite and rawness of black metal. They also manage to capture the heaviness and depressive atmosphere of doom and sludge. They achieve all of this through variation of tone and with impressive technical proficiency. The fact that the band have a dual guitar assault force at their disposal also plays heavily into this. There’s an equal focus on atmosphere, technicality, rawness and aggression and this balancing act is performed to perfection. The same can all be said of the drum work on the album, it plays its part perfectly as it is required to in an ever-shifting musical landscape. The bass work is also worthy of praise and adds an additional layer of depth to an already meaty spread.
Overall, this is an album that I’m extremely happy to have found. Since coming across it on Monday I’ve listened to it 4 times from start to finish. It’s a release where I don’t see myself ever getting bored of it as I keep noticing new elements that impress me with each listen. While it is a very recent entry it’s now a top contender for my top albums of the year list. If you’re a fan of extreme metal of any capacity I highly suggest giving this album a listen. Don’t be like me and sleep on it any longer than you have to.
Listen to and order the album: