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Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary album review

Ambitious Swedish pair Witherscape dial down the extravagance with new album

Witherscape album cover

This second album from multi-instrumentalists Dan Swanö and Ragnar Widerberg continues the pair’s otherworldly concept introduced on 2013’s The Inheritance while also moving further away from the death metal leanings of their previous ventures, Edge Of Sanity and Bloodbath.

Only the growled vocals point to the band’s roots, with more emphasis placed on the multi-headed structures, rich melodic choruses and virtuoso musicianship of progressive metal’s biggest names.

Although the 13-minute title-track is the focal point, the remaining eight tracks are succinct chapters where the band’s opulent expression is tempered by instantly captivating songwriting, be it In The Eyes Of Idol’s metallic stomp, The Examiner’s moody, melodic refrains or the infectious chorus of Wake Of Infinity. The Hammond jaunt of Divinity comes out of leftfield, while Marionette’s histrionic interplay and John Petrucci-esque guitar leads evoke Dream Theater at their most enchanting. Witherscape have channelled their trawl of ideas into a compendious, digestible listen.

Rugby, Sean Bean and power ballad superfan Adam has been writing for Hammer since 2007, and has a bad habit of constructing sentences longer than most Dream Theater songs. Can usually be found cowering at the back of gigs in Bristol and Cardiff. Bruce Dickinson once called him a 'sad bastard'.