Published on October 29th, 2016 | by Justin G.
Witherscape: The Northern Sanctuary
There’s something so right in the world when Swedish metal mastermind Dan Swano has not only resurrected his brilliant Nightingale project, but has also given us a new melodic/progressive/death metal touchstone in Witherscape. The two-man project, which features Swano on vocals, drums and keyboards and Ragnar Widerberg on bass and guitar, delivered an epic debut in 2013’s The Inheritance, and whetted fans’ appetites for more with 2014’s The New Tomorrow EP. Now we have a proper follow up, titled The Northern Sanctuary.
Much like The Inheritance, The Northern Sanctuary immediately brings to mind a more progressive version of Swano’s early death metal band Edge of Sanity and his one-off Moontower project. Witherscape features Swano’s evocative clean vocals as well as his more aggressive death metal growling, and it’s hard to say which is best. Like recent albums from Amorphis, you might not even put The Northern Sanctuary in a death metal context at all if not for the growled vocals. It’s very melodic, has more of a progressive metal sense of technicality and experimentation, and the atmosphere draws heavily from ‘70s progressive rock. Edge of Sanity meets Uriah Heep, perhaps?
The Northern Sanctuary is a worthy follow-up to The Inheritance, and it’s a literal successor as well, carrying the themes and storyline from the debut forward. It’s a very cohesive album, but does have its highlights. “Wake of Infinity” sets the tone and atmosphere perfectly, “Rapture Ballet” and “Marionette” make a strong impact, and the whole thing culminates in the mammoth, nearly 14-minute title track. It’s such a huge album that it feels much longer than its 47 minute run time (in a good way).
If you were a fan of The Inheritance (or are any kind of Dan Swano fan, really), you will absolutely love The Northern Sanctuary. This is the kind of album that should ease the pain for a lot of disenchanted Opeth fans, and it’s a perfect match for fans of bands like Barren Earth, Amorphis, Orphaned Land, Insomnium and Daylight Dies. Now we just need a new Nightingale album to go with it…
Summary: Dan Swano can do no wrong.