In the Metal world Dan Swanö really should need no introduction. As one of the cornerstones of the Swedish Metal scene, he has (officially) performed on more than 30 different albums with bands as diverse as Edge of Sanity, Bloodbath, Ribspreader, Nightingale and Star One to name a few. Dan Swanö plays a wide range of instruments on his various releases – vocals, drums, guitars, bass and keyboards, sometimes one…and sometimes all! And of course he’s well known for his many excellent production jobs (Dissection, Opeth, Katatonia etc.). Dan Swanö is a general Smart Arse – extremely talented. Let’s hope he’s rubbish at sport and crap in bed…
You never really know exactly what style of Metal you are going to get when Dan Swanö is involved. Witherscape is basically a duo-project with the relatively unknown Ragnar Widerberg handling guitar and bass, and Swanö adding additional bass, keys and all vocals. On first listen, It’s very much in the musical style of Edge Of Sanity’s “Crimson II” and Swanö’s “Moontower” album. The music is definitely of a progressive nature and has all bases covered, ranging from splashes of Melodic Death, through Prog, Power, Alternative and Traditional Metal, plus some well placed Acoustic passages. I personally really enjoy anything where Swanö mixes his vocal styles, going through his entire repertoire and that is what we are treated to throughout “The Inheritance”. This is also a dark lyrical concept album too!
Maybe I should apologize about banging on so much about Dan Swanö and ignoring Ragnar Widerberg, it’s just I can’t find any info on his previous endeavours…he does have a rather splendid enormous moustache, and is a damn fine guitarist/bassist as he proves on this release, so let’s hope a collaboration with Swanö helps launch his musical career. We also aren’t given much clue as to the percentage of riffs etc. are contributed by each member, but the listener can certainly pick out Swanö’s influence in the guitar, even if he’s not actually playing it.
Progressive Metal. It’s a well-used term that seems to encompass Dream Theater/Fates Warning etc. But in this instance, if we start with Opeth and Mercenary, and go through to Riverside and Ayreon then that gives you a fair clue what to expect on this highly entertaining and enjoyable release.
Anyone craving MFN era Opeth will surely enjoy the musical structure, style and mixed vocals of opener ‘Mother of the Soul’ and ‘To The Calling of Blood and Dreams’, both of which combine the heavier with the melodic perfectly and set the tone for the whole album. Both these tracks hold integral chunks of the lyrical concept, as more of it’s dark saga unfolds. Swanö has obviously learnt a little from other projects he has been involved in and the Ayreon/Star One influence in the keyboard work shines through, especially in ‘Astrid Falls’ (especially in the 70’s prog-ish central section) and ‘The Math and Myth’. But on the flip-side, there is plenty of Swedish Melodic Death Metal too – ‘Dead For A Day’ could be a lost Soilwork or In Flames track. However Witherscape’s own identity is always evident and never more so than in the expertly crafted ‘Dying For The Sun’. A Riverside/Gotye style intro explodes into a feast of diverse Metal styles that intertwines the vocal and bass line from the intro into different sections of it’s 6 minute length. Another 6 minute treat is the “wrapping-up” of the story, the final twist, of penultimate track ‘The Wedlock Observation’. Every form of Metal seems to get a look in at some point but the song never sounds choppy or spliced. It’s kind of King Diamond in feel (but not vocally!) in the way he would bring “Abigail” or “Them” to a conclusion, this album’s lyrical concept is of a very resonant of King Diamond’s style. Just another string to it’s bow.
This excellent collaboration is another giant forward (with plenty of sideways) step in the career of one of Metal’s greatest assets. Dan Swanö Metal is probably the only label I can pin on this release, as nothing else seems adequate. Great Stuff.
(8/10 – Andy Barker)