Withered battle defeat, chaos, upheaval as they make smoking return on crushing ‘Grief Relic’

WitheredIt’s really easy as a pure consumer of music to forget just what goes into forming and maintaining a band, as well as hitting the studio every couple years or so to commit your art to documentation. That record or CD that you hold in your hand, or, OK, the digital file on your phone, takes a long time to create, and many times, the artists are not the same afterward.

I say that as the new record from Withered is about to make its way into the world, and that feat was not easily accomplished. It’s been six long years since the band last graced us with a record, that being the gitty, punishing “Dualitas,” and since that time they’ve gone through a lineup upheaval, the loss of their previous record label, and enough drama that would end most bands. But it’s been clear ever since Withered bubbled to the surface that they’re made up of a nice helping of determination, and with that we have the band’s long-awaited fourth LP “Grief Relic.” It’s not just an amazing thing because the record is making its way to public consumption. The glory is in the music itself, how it stays true to Withered’s past, but also launches itself into the mouth of hell in a bit of a different way.

Withered coverWithered have been a band since 2003, and in those 13 years, the one constant has been guitarist/vocalist Mike Thompson, the veritable backbone to this project and overseer of four records that have been pretty damn solid. Drummer Beau Brandon has been around since 2007, helping Thompson see this vision into the current era, and with them on this record are guitarist/vocalist Ethan McCarthy (Primitive Man, Vermin Womb) and bassist Colin Marston (Gorguts, Krallice). They make for one of the most formidable Withered lineups to date (definitely they’re the most dexterous) and the formation that should push this band well into their once-again promising future. Oh, and they hooked up with Season of Mist, meaning they have a killer label behind them again.

“Leathery Rind,” a title that might as well describe the band at this point, gets the record going with a gasp and then an immediate death metal assault. The pace is vicious, while the bass playing is rubbery, and the track hammers away with an infernal intensity that’ll peel the skin off your face. “A Realm of Suffering” is fast and blistering, doing absolute destruction before scorching soloing lands and burns ever further. There are some disorienting moments looped in, as gurgling growls emit fury, and the final moments are plain nasty. “Withdraw” trudges and hulks along, with guitars fluttering and the bass bending your spine. The track later blends into a pocket of noise, with the final moments buried in eerie choral haze. “Feeble Grasp” has some slippery basslines, a wrenching pace, and melody snaking its way through the grimy din. The song then erupts, with fiery shrieks flying at you, a fast pace that delves into punk rock territory, and even flashes of smoking doom. The final moments have feral growls, smothering blasts, and an abrupt end like the world being sucked into a black hole.

“Husk” has dizzying melodies as it begins before it tears open and feels like it’s fighting a beast. Your senses are smashed, as the band heads into black metal territory and pushes your pain threshold to the limit. Wild shrieks arrive, leading the track into the mud pits, before the whole thing ends in blinding chaos. “Downward” is built on speedy riffs, mean sentiments, and ferocious growls, with the soloing tearing into the thing and bruising faces. The elements of this song feel like they spray everywhere, leaving no one unscathed, while the playing sounds like it’s situated in the eye of an electrical storm, pushing into noise rock. “Distort, Engulf” begins with tarry thrashing that mixes into a slow-driving death march. Growls and shrieks mix together to add to the terror, while killer soloing arrives. The vocals hit another level of savagery, and the whole thing melts into a scalding noise bath. Closer “To Glimpse Godliness” has a weird feel at the start, like your anxiety is making your mind go blank. When the track opens fully, it’s in the midst of a speed assault, gut-wrenching shrieks, and melodies that chew up your nerve endings. The beating continues without relent, as the guitars charge up and drag the track into the mouth of an uncontrollable wildfire.

If it’s one thing you can say about Withered, it’s that they’re battle tested. Of course, you can say many other things about them as well, all of which are complimentary, and their power is on full display with “Grief Relic.” Withered have survived enough trauma to kill most bands, and the fact that they’re here, bloodthirsty, and punishing as well as ever before should be a scary thing to behold.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/witheredmetal

To buy the album (North America), go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here (International): http://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/