It seems that after a couple of years of dormancy legendary Swedish musician Dan Swanö has hit his creative stride again, which was marked by his new project entitled Witherscape which consists of him and Ragnar Widerberg on guitars and bass. Their 2013’s debut album and following EP The New Tomorrow turned many hands towards Dan again and in 2014 he has treated us with magnificent Nightingale album Retribution. Now the time has come for Witherscape to continue the story started on their first album with their new release entitled The Northern Sanctuary. For those unaware, debut was conceptual album telling the story about the haunted mansion and the new album continues where it left off, some 50 years after the horror that took place on The Inheritance. Unfortunately the lyrics are still not available so I will wait for my copy of CD to indulge fully in them but those are the basic guidelines of the tale. It should be said that Paul Kuhr from Novembers Doom is once again responsible for the lyrics, so in that department everything is the same as it was on the previous release. There are no changes in musical style to be found also, as Dan himself has stated the music on The Northern Sanctuary was logical response on the tracks off the debut. That musical style could be labeled as melodic death metal with huge notions taken from prog and hard rock from bygone eras. If I would have to make comparisons with some of the other Dan’s works, I would say that lovers of more daring Edge of Sanity albums like Purgatory Afterglow or Crimson will feel right at home with The Northern Sanctuary. I also feel the vibes of Dan’s solo album Moontower, track Marionette being my prime example for this statement as it sounds like something that fell out of albums like Grace Under Pressure or Power Windows with death metal growling vox (which was the prime intention for Moontower). The album is full of highlights but maybe the most daring composition is 14 minute monster title track full of twists and turns, light and the dark and the good comparison would really be Halloween’s magnum opus Halloween. Aside from that track, the album is chock full of songs that are catchy as Hell but in the same time filled with subtle proggy details such as Rapture Ballet or In The Eyes Of Idols. Add to it fantastic vocals of Dan (both clean and growls) and chock full of killer melodies that just enchant you and you have the sure winner of an album. The Northern Sanctuary is one album destined for people who miss old Amorphis, Opeth, Edge of Sanity or to simply say melodic prog metal of the 90s. Without fanfare, stupid gossip or flashy productions, Dan and Ragnar have made another masterpiece which will be listened in years to come. Wholeheartedly recommended, The Northern Sanctuary will be without a doubt one of the best metal albums of this year!
- Century Media Records CD
- Trifunovic Slobodan (9)