Witherfall 2.jfif

WITHERFALL

CURSE OF AUTUMN

SONY MUSIC JAPAN Out now

2018’s A Prelude To Sorrow was an opus, an ode to the band’s dearly missed friend and drummer Adam Sagan who tragically died of cancer at just 36 years old and the album was magnificent. It far exceeded their debut, Nocturnes And Requiems, released just the year before and was obviously a labour of love with the band pouring a monstrous bag of mixed emotions into every song so, the big question I had before playing this new release was, could they write to that same standard without the close, personal subject matter?

 

Yes is the short answer but that in no way does justice to this album. The long answer is that they have expanded in every way and produced a follow-up that will undoubtedly please every Metal head and raise a few eyebrows on the circuit. Every aspect of Curse Of Autumn is step in the right direction which is an ironic statement in some ways as this one is more retro than its predecessor – which is progress. Still with me? Good.

I’m not going to single out anyone or anything in this review because every song, every shade, every texture, is as close to perfection as I’ve heard. Genres? How many do you want? There’s Heavy, Power, Speed, Progressive Metals, Rock and some sublime light acoustic moments as well, a tapestry of delights, all beautifully interwoven into one majestic piece. I’d go so far as to say that if this were a painting, it would be hanging in the Louvre.

 

The Japanese edition has two bonus tracks and what I like about these is that they don’t just seem to be two throwaway tracks tacked on the end. The standard album closes with an acoustic cover of Boston’s Long Time from their debut release in 1976 and then for the first bonus track, we are treated to a full Witherfall band version of it. Following that is an acoustic version of the band’s The River (full version track 9) which concludes the album; a coda in reality and a very lovely ending.

 

More than anything else, this album proves that Witherfall are no run-of-the-mill Metal band and have a very big career ahead of them. Well done to each and every member and technician who took part in the writing and recording of Curse of Autumn and when they wake up and draw the curtains, they can take new heart that it isn’t the sun shining up there, it is Adam, grinning from ear to ear from the great gig in the sky. 

 

Track List

Deliver Us Into The Arms Of Eternal Silence

The Last Scar

As I Lie Awake

Another Face

Tempest

Curse Of Autumn

The Unyielding Grip Of Each Passing Day

The Other Side Of Fear

The River

…And They All Blew Away

Long Time (acoustic version)

Long Time (band version)*

The River (acoustic version)*

 

*Japanese edition bonus tracks

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LIFESIGNS

ALTITUDE

INDEPENDENT Out now

For a couple of years in my teenage days, there was no better music on planet earth than Progressive Rock. Whilst my record collection included a good selection of Uriah Heep, ABBA and the Sex Pistols, by far the most represented genre was Prog and I had pretty much everything by Yes, ELP, Genesis and their peers and when Marillion came along in 1982, I was delighted that someone had picked up the baton that my heroes had dropped as I felt that Yes had become an exercise in production, and both Genesis and ELP had succumbed to record company ‘commercial’ pressure, turning out very sub-standard albums compared to their 1970’s heydays.Then, I confess, I lost a bit of interest in the genre after Fish left Marillion in 1989. The resurgence of the popularity of Prog in the 2000’s with the New Prog bands was healthy but I felt that bands were either trying to copy the 1970s giants or push the genre so far forward with the weirdest time signatures they could find and gymnastic skills on their instruments that they lost the very idea of what Prog was. I remained that way until this week when an album dropped into my letterbox that had me running around my lounge declaring that the messiah had returned.

Well, not quite.However, the new album from Lifesigns really is a stupendous piece of work, written and performed by a band that clearly understand Classic Prog and know where it should be going. Altitude is a collection of eight songs written by keyboard player John Young and performed/brought to life by Dave Bainbridge (g), Jon Poole (b) and Zoltán Csörsz (d), each one of them masters of their instruments with excellent CV’s in the Prog world and a great aptitude for the genre. Clocking in at over fifteen minutes, opening with the longest track would on the surface value seem rather risky but the piece is so beautifully constructed that it flies by. It drifts from a gentle opening through a series of moods, each perfectly transitioning to the next; the warmth from the etheric ending is haunting, enveloping and comforting. 

 

Each track has its own character and it’s tempting to write a track-by-track analogy for the album but that would spoil your fun on the first listening and trust me, you are in for a real treat (as is your hi-fi) when you hit the play button. Produced by John and Steve Rispin it’s also one the finest sounding albums I’ve heard for years with so much space between the instruments and even the notes of a particular instrument that the album seems to breath. They are a formidable team and I would love to hear what they could do with their peers or some of the Classic albums that have yet to receive the re-mastering treatment. 

Altitude is a tapestry of delights ranging from the radio-friendly to the wistfully ambient, each sound as sonically pleasing as it could possibly be so I shall say no more except to sum up thus: this album represents the best of old-school Prog and the best of the New Prog rockers.  

Progressive Rock has finally progressed. 

 

Track List

Altitude

Gregarious

Ivory Tower

Fortitude

Shoreline

Arkhangelsk

Last One Home

Altitude Reprise