Withered‘s Verloren, which is now set for release in June by Season of Mist Underground Activists, is one of the albums we named earlier in the year as among our most anticipated 2021 releases. It follows 2016’s Grief Relic (reviewed here), which we hailed as one of the best albums of that year. And that frighteningly superb album in turn followed three previous full-lengths collectively reviewed here in a report that attempted to sum up their sound as “blending the raving savagery of Black Metal, with the wrenching heaviness of Death Metal, and the slime-drenched grooves of Sludge, each one bathed in a scalding miasma of acid-rain atmospherics and bleak, bitter misanthropy.”
In a nutshell, we are big fans.
But the eager anticipation we have felt for Verloren isn’t simply a function of how phenomenal Withered‘s track record has been over a career that’s now entering a third decade. It’s also a matter of intrigue, because Withered have most definitely followed the beat of their own contrarian drummer, and the beat changes, in thought-provoking and sometimes confounding ways, while the constantly genre-bending music nevertheless continues to hit home with tremendous visceral and emotional power.
photo by David Parham
The German title of the new album translates to “missing”, and the band’s founder and vocalist/guitarist Mike Thompson has explained that it relates not just to the friends, family and pieces of the members’ lives and hearts that have, and will go, missing as time relentlessly ticks on, but also relates to how much during the global pandemic the band’s members have missed the activity of being in a band — the writing, the recording, and the touring that they might have once taken for granted:
“When it comes to this album, there was an initial suffering of anxiety because of the uncertainty in the world and the fear of losing this album because we put a lot into it, are super proud of it and it is the best Withered album yet. It’s important for my inspiration and motivation to go forward. It takes so much effort for us to create a record, the thought of it for it to all be for naught or potentially be wasted just destroys me”.
Fortunately, despite what the pandemic has wrought, the album’s release now has a fixed date, and we’re all beginning to learn what new elements Withered worked into their sound for this one, as well as to discover the contributions of new members Dan Caycedo (vocals, guitar) and Rafay Nabeel (bass), operating in harness with Thompson and drummer extraordinaire Beau Brandon. (The album also includes guest contributions by Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy on the track “Passing Through…”.)
The album isn’t easily summed up (and in due course we’ll have a review that explains why), but today we have a further indication of why the eagerness of anticipation for it by Withered‘s fans has been well-founded.
The song we’re premiering today, “Casting In Wait“, is in some respects a steady and oppressive march, its throbbing melody heavily laden with gloom and anguish, accompanied by a tandem of raw screams and harrowing roars that magnify the feeling of emotional ruin. In other respects it’s a racing firestorm of grim, ravaging intensity. In still others, it reaches heights of bleak grandeur, propelled there by a transfixing guitar solo that seems to wail in pain.
And beyond that, at the beginning and again in the closing segment, the riffing beats with an urgent, head-moving pulse, accompanied at the finale by vocals that seem even more shattering than before.
The song is accompanied by a lyric video that’s well worth watching (and pondering) while you listen:
Mike Thompson gave us these thoughts about the song: “Humanity’s obsession with glorifying the ego beyond death through legacy is one of the biggest exercises in futility. It’s perhaps the most elegant & noble way to waste one’s existence here. No matter the effort put forth, the earth will rise in tide, open up in darkness, and puke ash into the atmosphere erasing all traces. There is nothing immortal except what we all become. Worm shit that fuels earth’s inevitable return to harmony & humility.”
Below, we’ve also included the official video (by Guilherme Henriques) for “By Tooth In Tongue“, the first single from the album (and also the album opener). It’s a challenging listen, one that would knock most people way out of their comfort zone. It includes elements of haunting and crushing doom, avalanche upheavals strewn with deranged fretwork and emotional wreckage, and of course spine-tingling vocals (which here include impassioned singing that turns out to be exactly fitting for the song and the places where it appears).
It comes across like an intense audio exorcism, a cataclysmic genre hybrid whose mounting turmoil and turbulence is capped by a riveting guitar solo near the end. (If the sight of blood makes you queasy, even when you know it’s not real blood, you might want to just listen and not watch.)
Verloren‘s memorable cover art was created by Paul Romano. Season of Mist Underground Activists will release it on June 25th, on CD Digipak, LP vinyl (in various colors), and digitally.