The musicians involved here are two of the best in modern rock/metal that you’ve most likely never heard of unless you’ve dug for it. Dan Swanö and Ragnar Widerberg offer their particular spin on a familiar sound in Witherscape’s The Inheritance: progressive death metal. Released on Century Media records in July 2013, the album marks Swanö’s return to musical production rather than being behind the scenes. On the album, he produces, sings, plays drums and keys, and provides songwriting.
First and foremost, this is not a death metal album and that’s not a bad thing. Per the band’s website, The Inheritance discusses the fortune man whom inherits an estate in country and, deciding to investigate his new holdings, he finds “all kinds of weird shit.” The use of the concept establishes the approach firmly in the progressive atmosphere.
Sonically, the band roars in true death metal fashion on “Mother of the Soul,” leaning heavily on Swanö’s familiar bestial roar before twisting into his strong, clean singing voice which belongs in 70s high concept art rock. The song sets the tone for their approach, cleanly produced and dramatically emphasized instrumentation that holds more in common with Rush, Yes, or even Porcupine Tree than with Arch Enemy, Edge of Sanity, and other pure death metal acts. It shares tonal qualities with their country mates Beardfish from their 2012 release The Void.
The rich tone of the rock styled guitars mingling with metal is one of my favorite things, and Witherscape does nothing to disappoint with their approach here. Thematically, they make each song fit, never transitioning poorly between compositions. “Astrid Falls” is a a nice sprawling, primarily cleanly sung song that demonstrates the boundaries of Swanö’s voice. Yet, the best of the album comes from “Dying for the Sun” a song that takes you from a tentative acoustic opening into a thrashing metal core then back into a modern progressive atmosphere into “To The Calling of Blood and Dreams” that continues the metal assault. “The Math of the Myth” and “Crawling from Validity” all serve to give the music room to break free from the progressive approach into a variance of mood swinging metal akin to friends and former bandmates in Opeth.
Weaknesses approach when you really listen to some of the lyrical decisions the band makes. For example, “Dead for a Day” (a song that gets as close to classic death metal as any on the album) contains the lyric: “Oh, how I wish I could be dead for a day, so that I could hear what all the people would say. To find out in the end who was really my friend and what the meaning of life is about.” This is trite and childish writing that is refreshingly not often repeated through the rest of the album. Further, musically, the band pushes a bit too much to classic metal sounds similar to Iron Maiden that not only ramp up the epic feeling also increase the kitschy feel of the album at times.
Generally, however, unlike Sammy O’Hagar from metalsucks, I believe Witherscape’s album is a great piece. The roiling combination of 70s art rock, modern prog, classic metal, and death metal come together well here and develop to their logical conclusion in the instrumental ending. The point is to entertained and Witherscape is certainly entertaining. The music created herein develops a nice set of images in my head and gave me something about which to think, which are two primary thresholds of music I enjoy.