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Witherscape - The Northern Sanctuary CD (album) cover



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4 stars "The Northern Sanctuary" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish progressive metal act Witherscape. The album was released through Century Media Records in July 2016. Witherscape was formed in 2013 by Dan Swanö (vocals, drums, and keyboards) and Ragnar Widerberg (guitars, bass). The band released their debut full- length studio album "The Inheritance" in 2013 and "The New Tomorrow" EP followed in 2014. Dan Swanö is known for his involvement in acts like Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, Bloodbath, and Pan.Thy.Monium., while Ragnar Widerberg was probably a bit less known to the metal scene, when Witherscape was formed. He has since been active in both Shadowquest and Witchcraft.

Stylistically "The Northern Sanctuary" pretty much continues the progressive death metal style of "The Inheritance (2013)". I say death metal, but it´s actually mostly the growling vocals which lead me to tagging the music that, because the instrumental part of the music only seldom touches death metal territory. Instead we´re predominantly treated to an epic keyboard heavy type of progressive metal with the occasional nod towards death metal, 70s hard rock, and goth rock. In a lot of ways Witherscape is a combination of elements from some of Swanö´s other projects. Most notably Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, and Moontower. So if you enjoyed the most melodic and progressive rock influenced part of Swanö´s career, but with a touch of death metal, the material on "The Northern Sanctuary" would probably be of interest to you.

The tracks are often layered and a lot of different things are going on at the same time. The soundscape is huge and even during the more mellow melodic parts there is a touch of epic atmosphere. At times a little restraint could have made the material a bit more tasteful, but on the other hand there is something a bit charming about music this loaded with big sounds and epic atmospheres. Swanö as usual delivers a strong vocal performance. His growling vocals are distinct sounding and powerful, and his clean vocals are skillfully performed too. He masters both melodic clean vocals and more raw hard rocking ditto. The instrumental part of the album is very well performed too and both guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards feature an equally important place in the soundscape.

"The Northern Sanctuary" features a powerful and detailed sounding production, which brings out the best in the music. The many intriguing songwriting ideas and the high level musical performances are also great assets, and overall "The Northern Sanctuary" is a high quality release by Witherscape. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

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Posted Saturday, January 28, 2017 | Review Permalink

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