Released: 2008, Prosthetic Records
Atlanta’s Withered released their debut album Memento Mori in 2005 to generally favorable reviews. In the intervening years leading up to the new release, Folie Circulaire (French for Circular Madness), much has happened. The band replaced bass player Greg Hess with Mike Longoria and drummer Wes Kever with new drummer Beau Brandon. Withered also changed labels from Lifeforce to Prosthetic. Despite these fluctuations, Folie Circulaire is an absolutely caustic and brutal forty-five minutes of death and black metal. Withered has cemented their vision of extreme metal while eliminating most of the sludgy production problems of the debut. Producer Phillip Cope has captured every note with precise clarity right down to the occasionally annoying blown-speaker fuzz that fills the spaces on the quieter passages of the album. The lyrics are typically indecipherable, but the accompanying lyric sheet provides a glimpse of some weighty reflections and vague references to religion. The drums set a frenetic pace and the guitars dexterously shift from hyper speed to melodic passages and doom-inspired slow downs. This entire album exudes professionalism and is a clear indication that Withered is ready to become a major player in the extreme metal genre.
“To Embrace…” is the foreboding instrumental opener, a warning of the exhausting album that is to come, and is immediately followed by the blistering speed of “…The Fated Breath.” “Dichotomy of Evil” shifts from a slow melodic opening to a mid-paced chug and finally to full on warp speed with evil, guttural vocals. Not everything is brutal however, as the track “Gnosis Reveals” has a melodic and almost accessible three minute opening, while “Purification of Ignorance” has a gorgeous slow down in the middle of the song. The previous two songs are probably the two best tracks on the album. One minor complaint, though, is that on “Purification of Ignorance” and a few other places on the album, a low detuned rhythm guitar steps all over some beautiful melodic parts that really deserve to be the focal point in the mix. Napalm Death vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway contributes vocals on two tracks, and the final song, “Into Armageddon” is a well-executed Necrophobic cover.
With Folie Circulaire, Withered have proven that they have the vision to create a mood and the musical chops to sustain it, two qualities whose presence (or lack of) often separates average or bad albums from good ones. And Folie Circulaire is a good album. Listening to this from start to finish is exhausting and takes the listener on a spiraling musical descent into madness from which the band offers no return. The songs are well-sequenced and appropriately fit the overall mood of the album. Folie Circulaire is meant for a niche audience to be sure, but fans of this type of music should definitely consider adding this album to their collection.