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Album Of The Month August 2016
Witherscape | ‘The Northern Sanctuary’

Dan Swanö is a genius. An actual metal genius.

He’s up there with the likes of Chuck Schuldiner, Ihsahn and Mike Akerfelt as a thinker, songwriter and producer par absolute excellence – he’ll just never get the credit.

He has been the power behind so many thrones.

It’s only when you hear his own music that you realse Opeth, Katatonia, Bloodbath and so many, many more not have gotten as far as they have without him.

The more grizzled among us will remember Edge Of Sanity (particularly ‘Crimson’) as a gem of the underground, embodying so much of what made it cool in the first place.

Dan’s music has darkness, a certain groove, punch, and finally revelation. This new album from him under the Witherscape banner is no different.

He just knows exactly what to do.

By the time it gets to its clean plucks, opener ‘Wake Of Infinity’ could have been on Morningrise, so close is that haunted chord progresion. Yet the rest of the song sounds as though it could have come from something like ‘Ghost Reveries’ mixed with Whitesnake – there is just so much music going on in it.

He’s done this before, notably with his awesome Nightingale project as well – which is basically what Witherscape is only heavier and with more growls.

And talking of growls, his voice is in as fine a form as ever: that roar is still mightily up there with Amon Amarth or Akerfelt at his best.

‘In The Eyes Of The Idols’ is pumping, with a huge anthemic chorus. Those vocal melodies and rhythms are just flawless.

It’s a concept album whose cover doenst really suit it. I’m not sure why he’s fannying around with old school demons and stuff, given the hugeness and scale of these awesome tracks. There’s got to be something else more fitting.

But no matter. Books and covers.

The strange, enchanting chords in ‘The Examiner’ that shift around before going into a pure early Dream Theater synth augmented riff-out.

Every single note of the album is bliss – the kind of controlled, elegant mastery of music that only someone who truly knows what they’re doing can write.

There’s a definite 80s feeling in here, not metallically, but just atmospherically. Every song is suffused with something more than just music – a mood, a feel, a memory.

Basically he writes the kind of music that everyone else did before they went to shit – Opeth, Dream Theater, name them. He stuck with it, still writes enchanted underground metal that means something and sounds like it comes from somewhere other than a production belt.

So let’s hear it for this unsung creative mastermind, still making music that’s fresher than anyone and a joyous listen from start to finish.

No matter what kind of metal you like, the pure authenticity and creative endeavour that’s gone into this should appeal to you.

As I said, the man is a genius. Yet let’s not forget the contribution here of his partner in crime Ragnar Widerberg, formerly of Witchery. We salute you too.

An essential album that should be bought on hard copy immediately after you read this. Because it’ll give years of listening pleasure.

5/5 – Earl Grey ::: 10/08/15

  1. Holy shit, wasn’t aware of this. His solo jobby “Moontower” is one of my all time favourite records. That track sounds killer. Shall be bought ASAP!

  2. Quality!

  3. justincredible Says:

    That track is immense. I will definitely have to check the album out.
    Good review and I can see why you gave it 5/5.

  4. brianwilliams82 Says:

    Feck. Here was me hoping to save a few bob this month and then I go and read this. :/

  5. Not sure if I can get used to the clean vocals on it. I’m kind of done with the whole melodic death metal clean/death vocals thing. Production is a bit too clean to my liking, can’t help but wonder what this would have sounded like with a bit of HM2. But that’s probably due to me being a sucker for all the Bloodbath material Dan worked on.

  6. YaMommazAzz Says:

    Sounds like old Shadows Fall

  7. Very nice. Huge bang of Crimson of parts of it as you’d expect. I hear a lot of that band Eternal Oath off it too. I heard the earlier releases which were ok, but this sounds better on first few listens…. Dan is the man. Great to hear him still so active with the class back catalog and production history he has.

  8. lost me at the 2 minute mark with those vocals. i was thoroughly enjoying it until then.

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