If the truth isn’t sacred, why are we afraid? Los Angeles based dark melodic metal outfit Witherfall have been marked in history by the passing of co-founder and drummer Adam Sagan. A detour in time and wine which have taken them through dark times and musical arenas; a few years after their sophomore masterpiece they’re finally moving on to a third full length, and it proves a more focused album, though darkness and loss continue to be marking features of their sound. Witherfall slowly rose from humble beginnings, a blend of old school heavy metal and modern progressive weight, complete with shredtastic flavorings by co-founder Jake Dreyer. Their latest opus, Curse of Autumn, has all the pieces that made the first two albums great, taken to a slightly different edge, thanks in large to Jon Schaffer’s production, leaning heavy on an anthemic sound and a more accessible approach than Witherfall’s previous albums. Neither of their albums have been immediate smash hits, rather demanding some time to sink in before revealing their innate beauty and musical poetry. Curse of Autumn is no different in that regard, but very different in others.
The sound is less deep and dark than on its immediate predecessor, the absolute unit A Prelude to Sorrow (2018), instead letting unexpected twists open up new vistas in a slightly more accessible, hook-y approach. Curse of Autumn is immediately more chorus forward, several of the songs built more along the standard verse-chorus formula, than its two predecessors, adding heaps to that accessibility. As I Lie Awake is at the forefront of this; a tad repetitive toward the climax, which might have been a point in its demerit were it not for Michael’s phenomenal delivery of said chorus, which keeps me coming back time and again. Michael’s phenomenal delivery throughout the album is every bit as much steeped in the agony and anxiety he brings forth with his masterful delivery. From stoic and epic in anthemic choruses, to brittle near breaking point in the more delicate touches like the very personal The River or softer parts of Another Face. The man shows his monster of a range on The Other Side of Fear, pulling some heart tearing harsh vox in the bridge, followed by an insane high pitch scream to send shivers down your spine.
Dreyer’s guitars are less focused this time around on the sweeping theatrics, though there are moments his Malmsteen inspired shreds take the upper hand and swing wide. Take for example the zenith of dark melodic monolith Tempest or blasting solo sections of …And They all Blew Away and of course mid album instrumental The Unyielding Grip of Each Passing Day, which sees his melodic soloing in full force alongside a mashing rhythm section beset in force by Marco Minneman’s drums and Anthony Crawford’s bass lines. The bass lines, every bit as expressive as the furious guitars (though obviously not in the forefront) elevate the Iced Earth-ian riffage and help give depth and charisma to the flowing melodic pieces; Crawford’s absolutely stunning lines in opening up As I Lie Awake and throughout the instrumental sections of progressive unit …And They all Blew Away mark him every bit as integral to the Witherfall sound as the two front figures.
Curse of Autumn is not exactly the album expected after only hearing first single The Last Scar before its release; it also offers more depth and intrigue than a cursory glance would have one suspect. It is however an affair in the Witherfall-ian depths with pain, loss, anxiety, loneliness, embodied not only by the incredibly poetic lyrics and Michael’s hauntingly chilling delivery thereof, but in Dreyer’s phenomenal guitars, the leads and solos conveying utmost feeling and emotion, while still elevating the technical proficiency; closing epic …And They all Blew Away being that fifteen minute prog metal masterpiece Witherfall have always hinted at and finally unleashed. Closing the album off in spectacular fashion, it encapsulates the feel of the entire album; from the gloomy atmosphere that takes turns for the epic and goes through stages of anxiety and pain. Once more, Witherfall have proven they are very much a tempest to be reckoned with on the metal scene, unleashing a near flawless addition to their discography; and a serious contender for album of the year, bringing on the curse of autumn.
Standout tracks: As I Lie Awake, Tempest, …And They all Blew Away