Swedish progressive death metallers Descend returned with “Wither” which can only be described as a brilliant follow up to their 2012 effort, “Through the Eyes of the Burdened”. Everything in this new record is masterfully thought out, and its tight ensemble of very technically proficient musicians wandered through all sorts of different motions and movements along of the course of the album’s eight tracks. With only two songs of shorter duration, the whole record is comprised by several epic and masterful intricate pieces, which range from 6 up to 12 minutes.
This band isn’t a “one trick pony” kind of affair, as shown through the diversity patent in their songwriting sensitivities. Though their main musical identity and basis in “Wither” is rooted on death metal, the band frequently crosses into the melodic and progressive realms through various tempo shifts and constant riff permutations, always exploring how the crossing of the different styles might happen. As a result, the songs structures are like musical quicksand, and we hear this gradual morphing process, starting in one point and always evolving in different directions, rarely returning to the same section or looking behind. Though they might be indulging in death metal in one moment, in the next one they might go straight into an eerie soundscape, a more distinct melodic passage punctuated by an ensemble of acoustic guitars or even a thrash metal-induced riff frenzy, just to give examples.
Special emphasis must be given to the well produced guitar and drum work of Andreas Lindström, Alex Wijkman and Jonathan Persson respectively, which gave us sharp, tight and crushing riffs, all accompanied by an ever shifting rhythm section, which, most of the times, keeps you guessing about what will happen in the next few seconds. The guitarists could have explored and imprinted a bit more of their solo skills in the songs, but, its clear that they’re used just as a complement and not as one of the main focal points in each song.
The highlights of the record are the math metal portent “The Rancorous Paradigm”, the crushing “Severance”, the continuously shape-shifting “From Grace to Grave” and the amazing genre-crossing finisher “Sundown”.
Now, upon hearing “Wither” the first time, one would easily feel that Descend pays a considerable homage to Opeth, with them displaying a fondness of the swedes’ first three albums, especially “My Arms Your Hearse”. However, after a few more spins, one also feels that this band is something more than that, and they wisely knew how to spread their wings outside of the Opeth sphere, into what begins to be a realm of their own creation.
Upon the writing of this review, the year has just barely started, but “Wither” is sure to be one of the 2014’s best progressive death metal records. It won’t be the most easy of listens for the first time, due to the already mentioned intricacy of all the songs, but still, its one that will keep you coming back to always re-discover something that you’ve might have missed the first few times around. “Wither” is a bag full of surprises, just like all albums with potential to be great and inspirational, eventually are.
(9/10 Luis Alves)