Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary

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Witherscape is a Swedish progressive/melodic death metal band formed by Dan Swanö who has quite the pedigree in the metal genre, previously being part of the band Edge of Sanity who alongside Opeth helped pave the way for the blending of progressive rock elements with extreme metal as well as many other projects such as death metal supergroup Bloodbath and progressive rock band Nightingale, as well as fellow multi-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerburg, who is relatively unknown by comparison. Together they have produced one of the finest metal albums of 2016 in The Northern Sanctuary (Century Media Records), which serves as the follow-up to their 2014 EP The New Tomorrow and 2013 debut album The Inheritance.

Witherscape are a band who doesn’t just release albums for the music alone, they are creating a narrative that expands with each release. This is far from a new concept, with bands like Rhapsody on Fire, Coheed and Cambria, and King Diamond being well-known for their ongoing concept albums. This doesn’t make Witherscape any less intriguing though. From what I can tell, the story-line revolves around a haunted house of sorts, with The Northern Sanctuary taking place 50 years after The New Tomorrow EP, with a new person taking over the house. The underlying story is ultimately a bonus for the dedicated fans who will dig into the lyrics and embrace the narrative, but for the average music fan, this album gives more than enough to satisfy musically.

If you aren’t familiar with the work of Dan Swanö, you might be caught off guard with just how talented he is. On this album he handles all vocals as well as drums and keyboards. His ability to shift from melodic progressive rock style vocals to incredibly vicious death growls is truly impressive and keeps the album extremely dynamic. The keyboards add that timeless progressive feel to the album, and the drumming keeps the pace of the album in check. Widerburg handled the guitars and bass work on this album, and the incredibly riffs and solos alone make this an album worth checking out. He might not be as known as Swanö, but he proved to be equal in skill on this release. Tying everything together is a very clean production style that helps make everything sound very crisp and impactful.

Overall, there really isn’t much to not love about The Northern Sanctuary, as it’s simply a progressive metal masterpiece. Being a narrative focused album does make some of the lyrics a bit cheesy at times, and some songs are a can get a bit long-winded, no time feels wasted on this album. It’s another excellent release for the discography of Dan Swanö, and one of the best metal albums of 2016.

9.0/10

MATTHEW BLANCHARD

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Nightingale – Retribution

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Swedish multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö has had a long and strange career. On the one hand, he’s known for ambitious melodic death metal with Edge of Sanity on the other, he’s been a stalwart of the progressive rock scene with the likes of Nightingale, who are back after a seven-year hiatus. Their new album, Retribution (InsideOut), it’s all about the melody.

This is the seventh album from the band – made up of Swanö on guitar, keyboards & vocals, his brother Dag on guitars and keyboard, Erik Oskarsson on bass and Tom Björn on drums. In their early days, Nightingale was a goth rock outfit unafraid to embrace their experimental progressive sides. Today, they’re more of a poppy, radio-friendly outfit with hints of 80s goth, 70s style synth and AOR.

From the upbeat opening of ‘On Stolen Wings’ to the gentle rock of ’27 (Curse Or Coincidence?)’ it’s clear Nightingale are sticking to the lighter side of the rock spectrum. Whether it’s the synth heavy ‘Chasing the Storm Away’ or the slow gallop of ‘The Voyage Of Endurance’, every track is essentially a catchy, hook laden pop songs and it’s not to get caught up in the moment.

Swanö’s vocals have always been a strong point, no matter which band he’s playing in. And while there are no death growls, his powerful, soaring voice suits the AOR style of Nightingale’s music perfectly. But despite being easy on the ears, there’s little on offer for anyone who doesn’t like their rock dad or radio friendly. Pretty much every song is either a mid-paced stomper or some kind of power or acoustic ballad. The song writing is all to a high standard, there’s little filler, but there’s nothing to get the blood pumping or the head banging.

It might lack any adventure or experimentation, but Retribution is an enjoyable and perfectly listenable album. Edge of Sanity fans may find little to enjoy, but anyone who enjoyed the melodic aspect of Witherscape‘s debut or any of Swanö’s prog-orientated releases will be pleased to find the man back on good form.

 

7.0/10

Nightingale on Facebook

 

DAN SWINHOE

Witherscape Streaming “The New Tomorrow”

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Witherscape is streaming “The New Tomorrow” here.  This is also the title of their new EP, by Swedish singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Dan Swano and Swedish muti-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerberg, out via Century Media Records.

The New Tomorrow contains 5 unreleased songs: A brand new (title) track, 3 cover songs (“Defenders Of Creation” by Warrior, “A World Without Heroes” by Kiss and “Out In The Cold” by Judas Priest) and “Dead For Another Day” (an extension of the debut album’s “Dead For A Day” single). Its CD version (10 tracks) will also include special vinyl-mix versions of the same songs as bonus and the Digital Download version (7 tracks) includes another 2 bonus cover songs (“A Cry For Everyone” by Gentle Giant and “Last Rose Of Summer” by Judas Priest) from the sessions of “The Inheritance”, which are so far digitally unreleased. The 12″ vinyl version of the EP is playable on 45rpm,will be pressed on 180 gr. vinyl and comes either as standard black edition or in the following limited coloured options: Gold (100x, via CM Distro Europe), Transparent Red (200x, via CM Distro Europe) or Neon Orange (100x, via CM Distro USA).

WITHERSCAPE – The New Tomorrow EP:
1. The New Tomorrow (4:42)
2. Defenders Of Creation (4:27)
3. A World Without Heroes (2:36)
4. Out In The Cold (6:35)
5. Dead For Another Day (4:40)

WITHERSCAPE Line-Up:
Dan Swanö – Vocals, Drums and Keyboards
Ragnar Widerberg – Guitars and Bass

Witherscape on Facebook

Witherscape Releasing The New Tomorrow EP in December

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Swedish dark metal outfit Witherscape is releasing an EP “The New Tomorrow” via Century Media Records on December 9, 2014.

The band features Swedish singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Bloodbath, Nightingale, etc) and fellow countryman Ragnar Widerberg.

Swanö checked in to comment on the release as follows:

“The new track “The New Tomorrow” is introducing the new main character, “mannen i vitt” (“The man in white”) and the storyline revolves around his quest for the meaning of life and how he wants to make a difference in the world of the forsaken. It is 1950 and he finds this wonderful estate up north and buys it at an auction. He begins the work to turn it into a sanctuary for ones with broken spirits or other disabilities, who need to escape the ever-growing stress of the big city life. The plot will continue on the 2nd full length WITHERSCAPE album, which will hopefully be out at the end of 2015.
The cover versions were chosen because they are songs that resonate with us at their very core, but didn’t necessarily have – in our humble opinion – the production or performance to portray their full glory. We gave them the WITHERSCAPE treatment and learned a lot from analyzing, performing and recording them. And we will bring that experience with us into the writing for the 2nd album…

The re-make of “Dead For A Day” called “Dead For Another Day” was born out of the idea to let WITHERSCAPE make a WITHERSCAPE cover and remove all things death and metal to see what it would sound like. We fell in love with the new approach and decided to include it on the EP to show the versatility that can be expected from this band!”

Here is the tracklisting of the EP:

WITHERSCAPE – “The New Tomorrow” EP:
1. The New Tomorrow (4:42)
2. Defenders Of Creation (Warrior Cover) (4:27)
3. A World Without Heroes (KISS Cover) (2:36)
4. Out In The Cold (Judas Priest Cover) (6:35)
5. Dead For Another Day (4:40)

Witherscape Official Website
Witherscape On Facebook
Dan Swano Official Website

Witherscape – The Inheritance

Witheacape1Having played in numerous bands including Edge Of Sanity, Nightingale, Bloodbath and many more as either guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, and/or vocalist, as well as producing shitloads of albums by Opeth, Katatonia, Asphyx and, well, more, if anyone knows anything about music on the weighty edge of things, then it’s Dan Swanö. Together multi-instrumentalist with Ragnar Widerberg, Witherscape’s debut album, The Inheritance, has emerged. With such a vast contribution to music behind him, you’d be correct were you to assume that many a metal subgenre has been feasted upon and regurgitated into something that is, at the very least, interesting. Continue reading