Absence makes the great grow fonder. Absence also makes the wait for a new album somewhat tortuous. Will the wait be worth it? Are people still going to be receptive of what the band try to do? Will there be clean singing? Grief Relic answers these question with two positives and a flat no. Just the six years after their last record, Withered lay down the groundwork for a movement of doom inspired blackened death metal that may never take off. Not because the primal, depraved music is not good enough. No. This movement may never take off because it’s foundations are that spectacular, anything built on top wouldn’t match up to the original craft.
Primitive Man make for quintessential sludge/doom listening (according to Heavy Blog at the very least) so it’s important to mention the inclusion of guitarist and vocalist Ethan McCarthy into Withered. The string and throat -abuser is now partly responsible for two incredible releases this year already and his efforts here are crucial and captivating. The gravelly tones of McCarthy’s main act seep through the wide open wounds that an already imposing black metal sound creates. Pulling from deep down in the human gut, there are titanic passages of sonic oblivion to be played time and time again; those looking for the destructive force of the Earth channeled into a musical endeavour, look no further.
The slow moving aspects are far from the only thing holding Withered head and shoulders above the rest. The effortless twisting of blackened black metal riffs and end of times vocals could separate body and soul. This is determination and fervor like the most ghoulish beasts of folklore are claimed to possess. Importantly, Grief Relic showcases the low end of extreme vocals to a tee. The death growl has never felt so honest and harnesses a range of emotions that probably don’t even have names yet. Not in any language known to man anyway. It leaves a lasting impression that all will not be okay. Every possible fear and nightmare one could have is fast approaching – sooner than the next wheezing breath of a body not designed to survive in this climate.
But it’s fun! This is a record that carries all the hope of a wooden shack in a Category 5 hurricane and still carries repeat listening value. Casting aside all positivity shouldn’t be this enjoyable but it is so there’s little to no point in fighting it. Other than a slightly weakened closing track, Grief Relic owns it’s depraved, despondent sound with pride and gusto. Every blast beat and deranged solo – of which there are several varieties of the Colin Marston (Gorguts) bass variety – is unapologetic and equally unforgiving. Withered play music that could soundtrack the most introverted thoughts of someone in despair just as well as it could score the most violent scenes of the most horrifying motion picture. It’s introspective, cinematic and buoyantly accepting of it’s organic, oppressive qualities. Hats off to all involved in the creation, production and release of this splendid eruption of human suffering.
Withered’s Grief Relic gets…