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The Unforgiving Road
Released: 2016, Frontiers Records
Norway, and specifically its capital Oslo, has become quite the hotbed of progressive metal in the last decade. You’ve got the big, established names in Pagan’s Mind and Circus Maximus. Then you’ve got the up & comers in Illusion Suite and Withem. Heck, these two bands even share a guitarist, with Oyvind Larsen once being a member of Illusion Suite.
The other curious characteristic of this Norse prog metal is that it’s progressive without being long-winded. The majority of the music coming from these bands is in the 5-minute or less range, so they are compressing a ton of musical ability and ideas into digestible music. This is certainly true on Withem’s sophomore effort, THE UNFORGIVING ROAD. The longest song is about 7 minutes, and the majority of them are less than 5 minutes. Still, these are packed songs, full of captivating twists and turns.
The overall mood of the music is dour; fitting for a storyline about a dying man (at least, that’s how I’m reading the lyrics). There are a number of tracks like “Arrhythmia” approach power metal but never quite make the leap, but the bulk of the music is mid-paced & heavy, allowing plenty of room for the instruments to breathe and Ole Wagneius’ vocals to soar. His clear singing contrasts nicely with the music and helps provide Withem a unique sound. He especially shines on the gorgeous ballad, “Riven”. Musically, Larsen also shines with some inspired guitar playing and song writing.
It takes a while for the album to unravel; it took me a number of listens for the music to really stick, but once it did, I was hooked. I guess that can be said for most progressive metal but I found THE UNFORGIVING ROAD to be a particularly rewarding listen and definitely worth the effort of letting it sink in.
3. In the Hands of a God
4. The Pain I Collected
6. C’est La Vie
7. The Eye in the Sky
9. In My Will
10. Unaffected Love
Ole Aleksander Wagenius: Vocals
Oyvind Voldmo Larsen: Guitar
Miguel Pereira: Bass
Frank Nordeng Roe: Drums
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