Nocturnes And Rquiems
Released: 2017, Indie
I went into this album, blind meaning I knew nothing about the band. I didn’t read any reviews, didn't listen to any sneak-preview tracks, I didn’t see any Youtube videos, I didn't read the band bio etc , I just threw it on the ol’ CD player with an open-mind and a blank slate. I am extremely impressed!
You may have noticed that in many music reviews, the structure of the writing is the same. The review starts with some background of the band and then goes on to discuss the music. I’m going to mix it up. I’m going to talk about the music first and foremost and then give you the back-story, which is actually quite interesting and noteworthy.
Dark, Progressive, Melodic Power Metal is what Witherfall bring to the table. It starts with a gorgeous, subdued and eye-catching cover by NecroLord (Kristian Wahlin) his distinctive style adding another touch of class to this already regal and elegant band. The album NOCTURNES AND REQUIEMS seems to be divided into three mini suites. The albums in ‘only’ five songs long with three bridge, instrumental/ interlude pieces dividing up the record but it all flows into one perfectly cohesive whole, almost a conceptual album. The albums flows seamlessly. The main songs are is the six to nine minute range and just drenched in atmosphere and feeling.
One aspect I really like is the heavy use of acoustic guitar. It counter-points the darker heavier progressive Metal so well. The only other band that I can think of that blended acoustic, even flamenco style, guitar so flawlessly was Norway’s Conception, on those first few albums. The albums will be just raging in parts, pure Power Metal even hinting on the edges of thrash and then suddenly the song will drop into this lush and gorgeous acoustic segment with subdued vocals. It is a brilliant exercise in juxtaposition and then the album will dive headlong, full-speed back into some blazing 80’s inspired fretwork, much like at the beginning of the track’ End Of Time’. I’m hearing the very best aspects of Savatage, Crimson Glory, and Fates Warning but darker, faster and bit less pompous. The vocalist hits some killer high notes, but has so much emotion, grit and power in his delivery; he really lets it all hang out. The lyrics are intelligent and not all cliche...they remove around darker topics of sleep, dreams, nightmares, death adding additional emotional weight to the proceedings. The production just has that crushing, crunchy guitar tone, inter-spliced with ambient keyboard soundscape passages that never linger long enough to get boring ,amen the aforementioned acoustic segments. This is a totally unique and immensely engaging album and never gets so progressive that they lose track of the song and go off on crazy tangents. The individual performances are amazing but never just completely wandering off not the prog wilderness, never to return. NOCTURNES AND REQUIEMS balances so many elements perfectly, it is a remarkable feat.
So who is Witherfall? On vocals we get Joseph Michael (White Wizzard), on guitar we have Jake Dreyer, who is the mastermind behind the band. Jake was in Iced Earth, White Wizzard and Kobra And The Lotus, a band from my hometown of Calgary, Alberta. As aside note, I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with him briefly but I doubt he would remember. On bass is Anthony Crawford, and on drums is the late Adam Sagan formerly of Circle II Circle and Into Eternity (another Canadian band) so there is a little Canadian connection too. Sagan probably puts in his finest performance to date, he really stretches out behind the kit.
Even if this band was comprised of new, unknown, untested artists, I would still be blown away at how good NOCTURNES AND REQUIEMS is. The fact that Witherfall is a sort of mini ‘all-star’ project makes more sense and makes it that much more sweeter. Combined with the fact that this is the final recorded work of Adam Sagan, add extra appeal to this fantastic, world-class debut. Highly, highly recommended as my first big, very pleasant surprise new band of 2017.