|Superficially, Witherscape might seem like a brand-new name to the scene, but when looking and listening closer at its content that surely isn't the case. Legendary Swedish vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/producer Dan Swanö is perhaps best known for his work with Edge Of Sanity, Nightingale and Bloodbath. Active since the early '90s, his career runs much deeper than this revered trio, having produced seemingly countless bands from across the metal spectrum (Opeth, Dissection, Katatonia, Asphyx, to name just a few) as well as launching or taking part in side projects including Moontower, Odyssey and Pan.Thy.Monium. Following a lengthy silence, Swanö has returned with multi-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerberg at his side and a new conceptual project, Witherscape. No surprise that it's an outing of epic proportions done up in expected in-your-face Swanö tradition.
According to Swanö, Witherscape has been in planning for a long time, spawned as a result of his working relationship with Widerberg, which began at a Swedish music store. In spite of being five years older than Widerberg, Swanö discovered they had so much in common musically that brainstorming for a full-on metal project of their own was the next logical step. Widerberg quotes acts like early Judas Priest, Rush, King Crimson or Mercyful Fate as far as his inspirations in regards to Witherscape and Swanö elaborates his list to also include Judas Priest (1975-1989), Voivod, Queensrÿche, Rush, Marillion and Mercyful Fate.
Vocals, drums and keyboards were handled by Swanö for the album, with Widerberg looking after all guitars and bass-work, including the solos. It's a symbiotic musical relationship where the duo was able to feed off one another's strengths to create some of the strongest material in Swanö's extensive catalogue.
Witherscape runs the gamut of metal soundscapes from death to prog to old school, loaded with riffs and solos, lush clean vocals and guttural growls, an even spread of aggression and atmospheric darkness, and on one occasion, handclaps. Die-hard Swanö fans will likely draw comparisons to Opeth, Ayreon, Moontower, the catcher moments in Edge Of Sanity's catalogue, and even Amorphis or Type O Negative while taking Witherscape's nine song journey (with the closing title track being an instrumental piece).
The Inheritance comes enhanced with hauntingly beautiful artwork courtesy of Travis Smith, who has previously worked with artists such as Opeth, Nevermore, Riverside or Katatonia and based on its stylistic originality, its compositional depth as well as the intense atmosphere, it's an album that should easily appeal to all Swanö followers out there but also to a new generation of listeners interested in the current wave of progressive extreme metal.