WitherscapeI picked up Witherscape’s first album ‘The Inheritance’ on an old fashioned whim after seeing it in an independent record shop (one of the few that remain), and then being drawn in by the cover, the suggestion on the cover sticker that it is for fans of Opeth and Katatonia and the presence of Dan Swanö. The retro feels continued when I got it home and had a listen as there was something else about it that seemed to be missing from the majority of recent releases. After a while I realised it was the storyteller’s art that seemed to be here, with a style that drags you in and makes you care about the story within the songs, something King Diamond and Mercyful Fate were always so good at. After the success of ‘The Inheritance’, Swanö and Witherscape partner Ragnar Wiederberg have released a stop-gap EP whilst we await their full sophomore effort. It’s a bit of a strange one, with one new song, one reworked song and 3 covers; but it’s welcome nonetheless.

Title track ‘The New Tomorrow’ trades off between classic hard rock and full on prog with the Opeth influence proving strongest, especially once Swanö introduces the death growls which whilst used sparingly on ‘The Inheritance’ are now almost non-existent here. It’s a very good track and if this is a sign of things to come with the new album it’s going to be interesting. Of the 3 cover tracks the first is Warrior’s ‘Defenders of Creation’, and it’s a faithful and distinctly cheesy rendition as you would expect from the mid 80’s power metal heyday. There are some nice keyboard effects that bring to mind the ‘Moontower’ album and it all fits together rather well here in a grin inducing way.

The cover of ‘A World Without Heroes’ by Kiss is competently covered but largely uninspiring; more a fault of the tepid source material than the performances here. The cover of Judas Priest’s ‘Out In The Cold’ from the fashionably maligned Turbo album is the best thing on here. It’s an excellent interpretation, with the transition from the acoustic intro to the powerful main riff and Swanö’s super manly clean vocals delivering a modern take on the 80’s power ballad. It’s a guilty pleasure this one. By contrast the reworking of ‘Dead For A Day’ from the debut album is disappointing. In stripping away the death metal element and trying it in an acoustic manner it just serves to highlight the clumsiness of the chorus, which makes it all the more annoying when it gets stuck in your brain for days and you get a headache from the cringing.

‘The New Tomorrow’ is a good release but I’m unsure what to think if this is a supposed taster of the sound of the next album. It’s hard to form a reasonable opinion of the band’s direction when over half of the tracks are covers. The one thing that stands out is the reduction in the death metal element which is a bit of a disappointment, especially if the switch towards power metal is what we can expect. That being said the new track on here is not bad at all, so I’d suggest just to enjoy this for what it is, which is Dan and Ragnar paying homage to the music of their youth. It’s all just a bit of fun really.

(7/10 Lee Kimber)