Crikey, I hadn’t really followed Atlanta, Georgia’s Withered since their first full length album, “Memento Mori” way back in 2005 (Christ, I’m old), which was an album that I really rather enjoyed. A quick peruse of the old faithful Metal Archives shows me that much of that line up has changed and moved on, and so essentially reviewing this is the old fashioned way – not much in the way of predetermined ideas about how the album might sound, and listening to it in quite a pure and unsullied way.
Grief Relic isn’t an easy listen, but then if easy listening was the kind of music that you wanted to hear, then this probably wouldn’t be the right website for you; if you’ve stumbled here and got lost, www.pophitsweekly.com is in an entirely different postcode. Withered play a really heavily fuzzed out, dissonant blend of death and black metal, and cover it in some of the most unpleasant sludge-drenched hatred that they can dredge up from their brackish swamps. More than anything, Withered are a band that conjure atmosphere, and the key phrases that spring to mind for me are “unease”, “tension” and “paranoia”. Starting as they mean to go on with the feral lurch of “Leathery Rind” (even the title sounds horrible), the subtle, dizzying guitar phrases that play under the overall layer of filth make the whole thing really an interplay between the brutish, bludgeoning death metal rhythm section, and the altogether sinister guitar work. Vocally, these are hoarse, possessed bellows that scream intent and despair.
As I have said, all of this doesn’t make it an easy record to listen to, nor is it the kind of album that willingly lets up its secrets on few listens. I’ve had this for a few weeks now (apologies, Season of Mist), mostly because I knew that fresh avenues were being opened up with each listen (and also because my work has been manic). As a fan of albums that have more than cheap hooks to offer, I can say that the combination of some really very considered songwriting choices, and the ability to play with sonic textures, combined with a savage yet well constructed production means that this is a minor treasure thus far. I’m certain that I’ll continue to play this well into the year, and that fresh perspectives will open up as I do so – as they have with current fascination, the third song “Withdraw”.As it is, I can only give a vote for my score thus far, but I have the feeling that Grief Relic hasn’t finished with me yet…
(7.5/10 Chris Davison)