Released: 2005, Lifeforce Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Certain record labels evoke an immediate response before even hearing a note of a new release: Victory is emo-punk, Roadrunner is now moving away from nu-metal and Lifeforce is typically metalcore. With MEMENTO MORI, the debut release from Atlanta, Georgia’s Withered, Lifeforce has taken on a new beast, one that encapsulates doom, grind, black metal and old-school, Sunlight Studio-influenced Swedish death metal. This album crushes from beginning to end and, at only 36 minutes, is over before you know it. Chris Freeman and Mike Thompson, also in the crust/grind band Social Infestation, bring some of that influence to Withered but the Dismember/Grave/Unleashed nuances are also present. On top of those nods lies the thunderous sludginess of Mastodon/High On Fire with just a hint of Eyes of Fire/My Dying Bride-laced doom. Vocals (handled by both Thompson and Freeman) waffle anywhere between guttural death metal growls, to a blackened shriek to sparingly-used, despair-laden, doom-y harshness. Production is a bit muddy—intentional I will assume—but at the same time, the blasting drums tend to overwhelm the sound at times, lending an unpleasant, metallic harshness to the music. All-in-all, MEMENTO MORI is an excellent debut from this band and one that dabbles in enough styles to give most extreme music fans something to sink their teeth into.
The blasting inferno that opens “It’s All Said” may lead someone to think this is a blackened death album but once the vocals kick in, the slower, plodding pace of the verses dictates otherwise. Even a technical solo rescues this track from being mistaken for a paint-by-numbers trip down metal’s hallowed paths. “Within Your Grief” echoes the finer moments of My Dying Bride’s earlier works, getting along at a snail’s pace before the blasting groove kicks in about a minute-and-a-half in but rather than assimilating the pained wail of MDB’s Aaron Stainthorpe, Freeman and Thompson let loose with a combination of shrieks and roars that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. At nearly nine minutes, the epic “Like Locusts” and “Among Sorrow” snake their way through slow-building intros before crashing into a Mastodon-like whirlwind of chaos and confusion and then alternating between that and a slow dirge-like din. “Silent Grave” owes much to the band’s grind-based past rattling off speedy, chugging riffs and enough blastbeats in two minutes to make Napalm Death jealous.
For fans eager to get a taste of something fresh in an occasionally stagnant metal landscape, Withered’s entry into the game is a good starting point. While not entirely original, the intermingling of divergent styles of metal (grind & doom, especially) makes MEMENTO MORI an exciting listen. If Withered is simply a side-project, it is better than what many bands devoted wholly to getting their name out there are releasing these days and, thankfully, there is no sign of metalcore whatsoever, which should almost give MEMENTO MORI an extra half point as a result!
KILLER KUTS: “Within Your Grief,” “Like Locusts,” “Among Sorrow”