Review: Withered “Memento Mori” CD

Hmmm, these guys sent me their demo a little over a year ago and I really enjoyed it, so I was psyched when this showed up in the mail. However, it is with great disappointment that I have to say that I'm simply not as into this debut full-length as I was the demo. For one thing the recording is not right for what they're doing at all. It sounds like they were going for somewhat of a Sunlight-esque guitar tone, which would've been fine had they nailed it, but instead it just sounds like a more compressed take on "Left Hand Path", which leads to lots of pick noise and grating textures during the tremolo picking riffs and isn't heavy enough for the devastating doom rhythms. Then you've got the drums, which lack density and generally sound way too clicky and unnatural. I can't quite make sense of that since it sounds like they had good intentions with the drum tones, but the faster blasts sound pretty damn terrible and cut straight through the mix like you wouldn't believe. Beyond that there's almost no bass in the mix at all, so the vocals are about the only element that sound pretty damn solid. The demo sounded a lot better, and what pains me the most is that the guy who recorded this record actually emailed me to let me know that these sessions are in fact the same as the demo, but the label made them remaster everything and that's where the sound got screwed up. In my opinion that's a damn shame, and they ought to revert to the original version if they ever need to repress the CD, because the stronger recording would make an immense difference here. I also find a lot of the songwriting to feel too disjointed this time around, though. I still admire their breadth of influences, but the vast majority of the death metal riffs aren't very powerful at all, tending to fall back on rather senseless speeds and weak tremolo picking runs. What the band does best is unload churning slabs of pounding, dissonant doom and sludgy midpaced power chords with intense lead melodies and a hefty vocal performance that shifts from searing screams to guttural growls, but they rarely stick with that stuff for long enough, and I think the key problem is that in addition to generally lacking force, a lot of the death metal riffs sound forced and out of place - almost like they're trying to cram in blazing speeds just for the hell of it to add contrast. But in its finer moments, "Within Your Grief" is very Mindrot, while "Like Locusts" opens sounding almost identical to My Dying Bride in their prime, and I fucking love that shit. The transitions are much more effective in "Beyond Wrath", which uses numerous tempo changes, but doesn't feel like it goes too fast, and the riffing sequences piece together better for less jarring shifts that don't abandon the character of the song. And the nearly nine-minute closer, "Among Sorrow", is about as close as they come to abandoning speed all together, which damn sure pays off in this punishingly gloomy dirge. The layout is yet another Paul Romano original, and I'm actually quite digging the clean type arrangements and consistent imagery throughout this one. Great color scheme as well. The lyrics are using succinct doses of sheer misery, which I'd of course use to strengthen my argument that these cats ought to just be a dingy doom metal band, but you can't really lose with overbearing bleakness like, "Solitude confines you, Loss is all that you have, Constant reminder of all that is gone, Hatred consumes you, You're blind, Blinded by anger and rage, Compassion is gone from those who surround you, Helpless within your grief, Dwelling in pain." I don't know, I am kind of disappointed by this record, but I also still know that this band could be totally amazing, and it wouldn't take but so much to get 'em there. The mastering problem is absolutely the most important issue to tend to, but were they able to achieve a more efficient balance of their influences in how they approach their song structures... I'd love to hear it. Like I said, I'd also love to hear 'em chuck all that shit and just let the doom flow, but... there are other ways for Withered to kick several levels of ass, so...

Running time - 36:21, Tracks: 7
[Notable tracks: Like Locusts, Beyond Wrath, Among Sorrow]
Lifeforce Records -