The sophomore album by the American melodic metal band Witherfall is a farewell to their former drummer Adam Paul Sagan, who died of lymphoma in 2016. Comprising of song writing duo Jake Dreyer (guitar) and Joseph Michael (vocals, keyboards) with bassist Anthony Crawford and session musicians Steve Bolognese (drums) and Fili Bibiano (guitar), they recorded ‘A Prelude To Sorrow’ over 13 weeks after a two-year writing period.
Opener and title track “A Prelude To Sorrow” is a short but mood setting hymn set to cleanly picked guitar over a keyboard accompaniment.
It’s when the guitars kick in with full force, after a brief bass run, that the 11-minute opus “We Are Nothing” and the album really starts. While the song does progress through many movements ranging from slow acoustic strumming with gently whispered vocals to soaring leads followed by soaring vocals. There is a moment in the ninth minute when it sounds like there are too many cymbals being hit simultaneously while there are still drums being struck, but maybe that’s just me.
There’s a great thrashy rhythm to the guitars on “Moment Of Silence” which is matched by the drums, before a rather choral refrain slows everything down, only to build up again with a hoarse scream and wailing lead break.
Starting off in a very ballad-like manner, “Communion Of The Wicked” has the keyboards taken to the fore, even though the guitars eventually take the limelight back as the song progresses.
“Maridian’s Visitation” on the other hand maintains its slow melodic, ethereal quality with keyboards over picked guitars and sweetly sung clean vocals.
The choppy guitar riffs for “Shadows” are accentuated by the sharp snapping of the snare, with the vocal cadence matching, as does their timbre when the high pitched lead forces the vocals to do the same. Quite a range on Michael’s vocals, that’s for certain.
The scratching of the acoustic guitar strings during note changes on “Ode To Despair” add to the ambience and allow the change of pace to take the guitars to distorted riffing without hitch.
While “The Call” is purely about ambience as it builds a short soundscape before the rather impressive “Vintage” takes centre stage to deliver a beautifully morose but heartfelt piece, which works itself through its various movements on its way to the 11-minute mark.
Wrapping up with the acoustic dirge “Epilogue”, the album ends on a rather sombre note pulling very hard on your heartstrings as they lovingly strum their guitars.
Having listened to the album several times over the last 2 weeks, the key features are the emotive quality of the songs and lyrical deliver as they struggle to say goodbye to a lost bandmate. Moreover, they are able to have you feel those emotions too.
(8/10 Marco Gaminara)