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Withem – The Unforgiving Road

Released By: Frontiers Records

Release Date: June 3, 2016

Genre: Progressive Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/Withemband

 

Line Up:

Ole Aleksander Wagenius – Vocals

Oyvind V Larsen – Guitars

Miguel Pereira – Bass

Frank Nordeng Røe – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. …Intro

2. Exit

3. In the Hands of a God

4. The Pain I Collected

5. Riven

6. C’est La Vie

7. The Eye in the Sky

8. Arrhythmia

9. In My Will

10. Unaffected Love

11. Outro…

 

When I think of prog bands from Norway, the first one to come to mind is always Circus Maximus, a long favorite of mine, but in 2013 I discovered another Norwegian band with a ton of potential. That would be Withem and the excellent combination of technical prowess and melody they demonstrated on their debut The Point of You. Just over two and a half years later, they are now signed to Frontiers Records, the same label as their fellow countrymen, and are back with their equally impressive sophomore release The Unforgiving Road.

I was initially concerned that they would soften their sound up a bit, to fit in with what that particular label favors, and indeed the album does have a ton of calm, mellower sections, but on the whole it picks up from where they left off on their debut. For those unfamiliar with their debut, you can expect some very strong musicianship all around, including some very heavy guitar work at times, excellent solos, and varied keyboards, ranging from the kind of modern sounding keyboards you’d expect on a prog album, to some very ambient sounding keys and the occasional use of piano, most notably on the standout track “Riven”. The instrumental work is excellent all around, and each musician is given room to showcase their technical expertise. In fact, I’d say the most obvious influences I hear on this album are the previously mentioned Circus Maximus as well as early Dream Theater, so listeners can expect the instrumental work to be along those lines, except compared to the latter the focus leans much more heavily on the melodies and songwriting than on showmanship. Some of the songs are complex and feature multiple tempo changes, though on the whole this is a fairly straight-forward album as far as prog goes.

The album begins with a brief intro, featuring only keyboards and lead singer Ole Aleksander Wagenius, who has a very warm tone to his voice that fits the music well, and while he can be animated at times, overall he has a very pleasant voice and he does an excellent job of putting a lot of emotion into the songs without losing control. He is definitely one the band’s biggest assets. Next is the first full song, “Exit”, a mid tempo track and one of the heavier tracks on the album. The verses move along at a good pace and are more guitar driven, while the chorus slows down and allows the keyboards and vocals to shine. Towards the end the song completely calms down and vocals and piano take over for a very nice ending. Following that is “In the Hands of a God”, a song that gives a stronger indication of what most of the album is like. It starts out a bit heavy, but quickly slows down and is largely driven by the melodies. It features a very impressive solo section in the middle, and overall it’s a pretty nice track.

My favorite song on the album is “The Pain I collected”, a track which starts off similarly to the first two tracks, before alternating between rather quiet and ambient verses, and an explosive up tempo chorus that pushes a bit towards power metal. The vocals on this track are especially strong and help elevate an already great track into a huge standout. Another favorite is “Arrhythmia”, probably the heaviest on the album. It starts off with some very heavy guitar work and impressive keyboards, and it too features some very speedy sections, especially during the chorus. On the opposite side of the spectrum, “Riven” is an excellent example of how to do a prog ballad, from the effective use of voiceovers at the beginning, to the great piano work and emotional vocal performance from Ole, everything about the song is excellent. The last full song “Unaffected Love” also has some very calm sections as well as a very strong chorus to help make it another favorite. Lastly for standouts, we have “The Eye in Sky”, a very retro sounding track that feels more accessible than the rest of the album. It’s extremely catchy and has a very light hard rock sound to it, that I could imagine sounding good on the radio, while Ole’s vocals during the chorus are much higher pitched than normal but still sound great.

Prog fans searching for a great new band to check out would be well advised to give The Unforgiving Road a try, as it’s a very good album with the right balance between technical musicianship, melodies and consistently solid songwriting. Withem remains a band to watch out for, and I hope to hear much more from them in the future.

 

Written by: Travis Green

Ratings: Travis   8/10

 

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