Witherfall - A Prelude To Sorrow

Genre: Progressive Metal

I’ll just assume everyone knows Witherfall by now, because if you didn’t listen to last year’s album of the year, their debut Nocturnes and Requiems (2017), you done fucked up. That first album described something like a nightmare that turned darker, to show its true abyssal self, but A Prelude to Sorrow is a work of mourning. The death of former drummer Adam Sagan (ex- Into Eternity) is felt all throughout the production, and like the aftermath of loss, A Prelude to Sorrow takes many shapes. After the titular intro, We Are Nothing starts off heavy, aggressive, angry. It leads the album off into a more progressively built venture led in spades by Jake Dreyer’s (Iced Earth, ex- White Wizzard) furious lead guitars and the eerie, dark presence of vocalist Joseph Michael (Sanctuary, ex- White Wizzard). The structures are worked to perfection, with massive buildups that just as soon twist into something darker as turn into softer passages set to Dreyer’s acoustic guitars. And where the debut dealt in plenty of power metal, and there still are traces of it, the sound on here is decidedly closer to Nevermore style of dark progressive metal.

Witherfall - A Prelude To Sorrow

Sagan’s replacement Steve Bolognese (Death Dealer, ex- Into Eternity) handles the responsibility of it well. The embodiment of the rhythm section on the album is much a continuation of what was started on the first album, with a distinctly similar sound and while also feeling new and improved and unique to Bolognese’s style. Anthony Crawford delivers moody bass lines to go well alongside the dark tone, and led in riffs and the dark melodic play by Dreyer’s guitar which takes several steps up from the debut. There’s less guitar noodling, and a bigger sense of purpose to Dreyer’s antics, a sense of direction. It’s a more controlled effort and the whole benefits greatly from it. The musicianship blends melancholy amazingly with the frenetic guitar play, blazing solos undeniably powerful choruses and catchy vocal melodies. Michael gives color and life to the process, delivered in powerful layers and delving into his darker territories while also bringing back some of the almost King Diamond like highs from the first album, particularly in heavier than fuck mid album track Shadows.

When you really start to give the album the time it deserves, you begin to really feel the weight of emotion put into this work of art. Be it the relentless, moody weight of single Ode to Despair or the eerie acoustic flow of Maridian’s Visitation - set with some of Michael’s fine keyboard work that often take the atmosphere setting route - or even the madly twisting heaviness of We Are Nothing, the album continues to evolve with each listen. Perhaps the crowning moment is the second eleven minute song, on the far end of the album; Vintage. Here the musicianship take yet another twist; starting off as a ballad with a furiously melancholy chorus, turning into a slow cooking behemoth of Dreyer’s likely best melodic play on the album. The looming presence of the bass and rhythm section adds the final dimension, to complete the album and bring to the process a sense of finality; release. You’ll especially notice the hair rising moment around the five minute mark, where Michael’s vulnerable yet liberating falsetto gives way to a slow melodic guitar lead, and the masterful last few minutes.

I could probably go on, but the music and emotional weight of Witherfall is best experienced and not read of. This album is masterfully written and performed, with especially Dreyer and Michael both proving to be world class musicians, without showing off. While A Prelude to Sorrow didn’t hit me quite as hard at first glance as the debut did, there is no doubt that the immersive layers and the depths unreached will prove, with time, to surpass that first album. In less than two months time this near flawless masterpiece will be crowned ‘album of the year’ (yes, I’m calling it already). And it carries a name; Adam Paul Sagan.

 

Standout tracks: We Are Nothing, Communion Of The Wicked, Shadows, Vintage

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Witherfall - Moment of Silence

Edward De Rosa - Zeitgeist

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Italy has always been a big contributor to the power metal scene, ever since the second coming in the latter part of the ‘90s. But what with Italy being a bit of a disappointment pit lately (certain albums excluded, *cough* Elvenking *cough*, who’d have thought such a piece of interesting, passionate power metal should once more come soaring on majestic winds from the land of Fabio Lione? Edward De Rosa’s debut album Zeitgeist has a big thing going for it; mainly, it doesn’t exactly have that typical Italian sound, while still being exactly Italian. It’s a “side project” of guitarist Valerio De Rosa (Soul Of Steel)  - hence obviously naming it Edward, because it’s much, much cooler - it’s fairly guitar forward, but not overly “look at me as I jack off this guitar” as many such projects are. This also makes the inclusion of such a track - the frenzied Replicants - much more tolerable and, dare I say it, enjoyable.

Edward De Rosa - Zeitgeist

What’s offered is not your generic power metal though, nor is it very symphonic, as might be expected given many factors and prejudices. Edward De Rosa offer a high octane guitar driven progpower heavy on the catchiness, and with highly catchy and passionately delivered vocal lines that will have you humming along to Giacomo Voli’s (Rhapsody) powerful voice on the first listen. There’s a lot of focus on the vocals here, and why not, with Voli lending his expertise. Sure, the guy’s still no Fabio Lione, but he has a very rich tone and some Ashley Edison (Power Quest) like stylistics and touches of Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius), while sounding very modern. De Rosa adds his flamboyant guitar touches without being in your face about it; the solos are appropriate, the leads driving and affectionately allowed to stay behind Voli when the music needs it; everything is in the right amount, no show off, no unnecessary filler. 

You’ll find the extravagant power metal antics in opener (excluding the intro) Legend: The Omega Man and highlight Burning Skies. On the other hand there are tracks like Ghost of the Ruins and The Sleep of Reason are slightly more progressively built, with some more complex timings and tempo shifts. The former of the two also infuses some oriental, folky vibes and also a sense of mystique to give depth to the theme. At times the album is pretty ballsy; there are a couple of tunes with folksy inspiration, and toward the end there’s Fight Of Life which starts with a powerful melodic instrumental half, before introducing a bit of Voli’s vocals in a mysterious tone - and then it really takes off with another instrumental half, flourishing with infective melodics. The rhythm play is incredible, the guitars catchy as a cold in hell as they get to duel some keys and a far off set of bagpipes. The melodic play is some of the best on the album, and that’s saying some, because De Rosa means business on here. Zeitgeist came out of nowhere, nary a hint about its existence before it was already there, and it turns out to be such a powerful, catchy listening experience, sure to grow even further with repeated listens; a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. Damn it Italy, I can’t stay angry with you for long.

 

Standout tracks: Legend: The Omega Man, Ghost of the Ruins, Burning Skies

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Edward De Rosa - Legend: The Omega Man

Heir Apparent - The View From Below

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Heir Apparent first started out way back in 1983, releasing their debut album Graceful Inheritance and following it up with One Small Voice (1989). Then the ‘90s went all ‘90s on the Seattle prog metal group, and although they’ve been active since 2000 it’s not until October 2018 that the third full length was finally released. Titled The View From Below, it showcases a definitely modern touch of progressive power metal, not intent on bringing back the days of yore but on bringing the band into a new era. Whether or not it is a worthy comeback is better left to fans of the previous two albums, but it is a decent album. There’s some new personnel on here, in vocalist Will Shaw (Athem, ex- Abodean Sky) and keyboardist Op Sakiya (Screams of Angels). Derek Peace, Terry Gorle and Ray Schwartz - on bass, guitar and drums respectively - remain from the first two albums.

Heir Apparent - The View From Below

The tempos are downsized, the musicianship on point, the sound crisp and clear, the tone of the album critical and poignant. Gorle’s guitars take a frequent lead position, but do trade off with Shaw’s distinct cleans as the melodic touch, delivering plenty of vibrant instrumentals that just as soon burst into colorful solos as they do into emotive choruses for Shaw to fill in. The burst toward the end of The Door is slow but packed to the rim with energy that Gorle releases in a slow solo that then trades off to an emotive last passage from Shaw, who makes this album his own with passion aplenty to go with the smooth riffing and the grooving bass lines.

However, there is a problem on this album, and that is the pacing. The album certainly needs more speed and intensity in some places. The slow tempo throughout makes it seem longer than it actually is - the album clocks in at a modest (well, by today’s standards anyhow) 45 minutes. The only track that speeds things up a little is Savior, in the middle of the album - and it’s only two and a half minutes long. Interweaving more speedy elements, which don’t necessarily have to be speed metal, would pick the album’s pace up and make it a smoother listen. Here We Aren’t and Synthetic Lies unfortunately drag the momentum to a near halt after the first two songs open the album on a fairly low paced, but still fresh note. The former is a slow ballad, and while it’s not necessarily a bad song, it’s way too early and undeserved after a mere twelve minutes of opening. The three closing songs fare better, however and coupled with the equally well fleshed out start, manage to make The View From Below an enjoyable, but nowhere near essential, listen.

 

Standout tracks: Man in the Sky, The Door, Further and Farther

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Heir Apparent - Man in the Sky