Monday, June 20, 2016

WITHEM: "The Unforgiving Road"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Withem from Norway and their sophomore release 'The Unforgiving Road' at Frontiers records. The softer side to Circus Maximus? From opening 'Exit', there's a feeling of the rockier elements drifting into the modern Prog laden sound, the staccato percussion as easily fitting into the metal as it would a vivid cinematic song. Thinking into the concept and composition, there are moments when the modern, prog sound prevails, such as the opening of 'In The Hands of a God', but not THE God? where it would be easy to make comparisons to the likes of Seventh Wonder and the Swedish tapestry of arrangements.

It's layers upon layers of keyboards and guitars and the typical interaction between the two. Something that obviously started out with the Swedes of Yngwie Malmsteen and Jens Johansson in the eighties and has since become a trademark of sophisticated and professional rock. Especially weird considering they don't have a proper keyboardist in the band? The Norwegians of Withem are probably not going to agree and thinking I'm taking the piss. However, you couldn't find a more Swedish sounding track at the moment than 'In The Hands of a God'. It's a rather clean and close to sterile sonic landscape for the listener to explore.

Direct and more emo, 'Riven' manages to strike up a middle ground between soft melodic rock and cinematic Prog-Rock music, drifting between the two as the song unwinds, The Robby Valentine vs. Seventh Wonder rock shows how much they're capable of as they create a storm of emotion, the music ebbing and allowing the listener to come up for air if only for a short moment.

Final verdict: Solid as a rock. Atmospheric keyboards and overall well executed cinematic melodic prog. Definitely not super-proggy and perhaps a tad too short to the proper fanatic?

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