Unleashing their second album Wither, Swedish progressive death metallers Descend show themselves to be one of the more captivating and skilfully imaginative emerging bands on the scene. Consisting of eight admittedly at times labour intensiveadventures the release is a compelling and richly appetising slab of creative and passions sparking metal. Every twist and turn of the album absorbs and challenges thoughts in just the right impacting way and with only arguably the length of a few tracks making a slight issue Wither is a fine and exciting provocation.
Formed in 2003 with its current line-up in place since 2008, Descend has, from starting out with we have been informed a thrash metal attack, evolved and honed their sound in to the impressive confrontation facing the senses on the new album. A trio of self-released releases between 2006 and 2009 sparked some attention but it was debut album Through the Eyes of the Burdened which sparked greater awareness of the band. Released in 2011 via Supernova Records to strong responses, it was followed by numerous impressive shows and festival appearances in countries such as Germany and Canada as well as a performance at the Metaltown festival in Gothenburg the following year. The new Inverse Records unleashed Wither has the invention and craft to elevate the quintet to new levels and though not quite the perfect record you feel is waiting inside the band, the album is an invigorating and refreshing tempest of progressive and death metal ingenuity.
A magnetic drum lure starts album and opener Confined By Evil off before instantly intensive riffs with an eager groove to their lilt search the ears. Their touch is acidic yet powerfully enticing as they scrub the senses insisting on attention as the rhythmic acrobatics of drummer Jonathan Persson, already wholly impressive, pounce dramatically behind the song’s addictive call. It is a rich and strong entrance to the song, instantly contagious and expressive in its melodic narrative and emotive crafting. A swift kick in of rapacious energy and malevolent intensiveness takes the enticement into new domains of intimidating and invention with the rasping caustic tones of vocalist Nima Farhadian L. offering a ripe and pungent menace which borders hostility whilst the sonic design sculpted by the guitars of Andreas Lindström and Alex Wijkman bring a simultaneous bewitching and intrusiveness. The track, much like the album, needs time and numerous plays to unveil its depths and incontestable persuasion, its presence demanding and greedy on the senses but with a vast expanse of imagination and bold adventure the song eventually proves itself to be an exhausting but immense start. At near on nine minutes the first track does push its limits like a few subsequent tracks with its length, the surface engagement an overwhelming merciless want on the listener but again given the time mentioned it convinces all is as it should be.
The following more brutal The Rancorous Paradigm brings a gentle and appealing opening with a melodic infusion to its grazing riffs, though the bass of Justin Biggs has a carnivorous tone which stalks the song from start to finish to provide an immediate predation. Another track which takes time to grip the imagination it is a sinew swinging beast of addictive grooves, sonic temptation, and rhythmic tantalising all ridden by the again gutturally bred pestilential vocals. From a decent song the first time around it emerged as one of the favourites again giving evidence of the patience and focus you need at times with Wither.
In Hours of Despair invades the senses next offering sonic squalling and tempting from the off with the ever impressive rhythmic juggling and invention of Persson stealing not for the first or last time a big chunk of attention and praise. At times lumbering with a brutish maliciousness and in other moments flirting with an energetic frenzy driven by the infernally enjoyable drum maelstrom and guitar driven enterprise, the song twists itself into a dramatic melodic weave with excellent clean vocals. At this moment the song is like Stone Sour meets Carcass before breaking back into the original harsh attack of the song. It is an absorbing encounter which like all tracks provides extra rewards with each listen as does the commanding Severance. Arguably less exploratory than other songs but certainly not neglecting a melodic and sonic merger of styles it is a ripe and impacting bruising on the senses.
A lull is provided by the instrumental title track, a striking melodic piece which is attractively crafted and presented but feels out of place where it is, maybe placed at either end of the album would have left it feeling more at home in the design of the release. It is soon forgotten through the virulently corrosive and imaginative presences of Diabolic and From Grace To Grave. The first of the two blends a beauty and the beast contemplation in sound, its primal jaws firmly entrenched in the flesh of senses and thoughts from the start but tempering the fury with spikes of varied metal flavours and a sonic acidity which is melodic if scarring. It is a masterful caging of the imagination and emotions soon matched by its successor. Though the track is not quite as instant a persuasion as its predecessor the ravenous squall of rhythmic and sonic causticity is irrepressible and riveting.
The album closes with the twelve minute Sundown where again length makes a bit of an issue, urges to return to the album’s start breaking out well before the song’s admittedly enthralling and pleasing body has made its departure. The exacting song still makes a powerful end to a very impressive album even if there is a certain indefinable spark missing which prevents the release from making the mightiest impact. It cannot however prevent Wither and Descend from placing themselves in a very rewarding and inciting spotlight which should take the band into a new plateau of attention within progressive death metal.
Wither is out now via Inverse Records.
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