Album Title: Antiquity
Label: Scarlet Records
Date of Release: 26 March 2021
The great thing about listening to a debut, is that you never quite know what you’re going to get until you press play and listen. You can read as many press releases as you wish, that will mention this genre or that, or this band or that when describing the music on offer. But until you hear the final product, it often counts for very little. Wythersake are described as symphonic blackened death metal but as I have discovered, not for the first time, this only tells a small part of the story.
Wythersake hail from the US capital city of Washington D.C. and were formed in 2016. After a string of singles, we finally get to hear a full album from the band, entitled ‘Antiquity’. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Gabriel Luis, guitarist James Siegrist, bassist Cody Bowen, and drummer Daniel Salamanca, the quartet waste absolutely no time in announcing their arrival on the extreme metal scene, as this debut rips the listener a new one from the very beginning. It’s an energetic, extreme metal battery that is both intriguing and enjoyable. Whilst the music does find itself rooted in symphonic blackened death metal, there are times when the music veers into full-on black or death territory, as well as more than a cursory dabble into Gothic, and darkwave realms. There’s an occasional experimentation with more progressive ideas, as well as hints of other influences too.
There are a couple of elements to Wythersake’s musical output however, that really jump out. Firstly, the guitar work is exceptionally good. Whether Luis and Siegrist are bludgeoning us with their riffs, or delivering one of many expressive, technical and swift lead solos, their talent is plain for all to see and they clearly bring their ‘A’ game to this record. Not only are the solos fast, but they are also vibrant and often melodic. The riffs alternate between their more standard fast black metal style and robust death metal muscle with apparent ease.
Then there’s the drumming courtesy of Daniel Salamanca. The guy is a machine, dishing out relentless blastbeats one minute, followed by a flamboyant fill the next. His style reminds me more than a little of Nick Barker, he of ex-Cradle of Filth and ex-Dimmu Borgir fame, a musician I have a lot of respect for.
Speaking of Dimmu Borgir, this is without doubt one of the most obvious reference points when it comes to describing the music of Wythersake. Not only is the drumming in a similar vein, but lots of the tracks on ‘Antiquity’ feature those familiar tinkling keys that were most prevalent in the Norwegian’s albums from the late 90s, namely ‘Spiritual Black Dimensions’ and ‘Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia’. Additionally, Wythersake’s vocalist likes to growl, croon, and speak in a manner not too dissimilar to Shagrath. That said, the growls from Gabriel Luis are of a much deeper, death metal timbre, whilst his clean voice lends that Gothic, darkwave edge to the music. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I like this element all that much; I definitely prefer the growls and the spoken-word parts better, as I’m not the biggest fan of this deep, Gothic style of singing. Regardless of whether or not I like it, it does make the Wythersake sound a little more original, so I can’t be overly critical.
‘Prediluvian’ begins the record in a rich, opulent manner, not to mention dark and heavy. It’s a relatively short piece, but the chugging riffs are ear-catching, as is the slow, menacing melody that plays over the top of the powerful riffs and tight, uncompromising drumming. The drum fill that then acts as a seamless gateway into the title track is marvellous and the rest of the track is pretty stonking too. The riffs and the drumming carry the song on a brisk trajectory of merciless extremity, but as the song develops, in comes a more melodic section with Luis’ clean vocals before a stellar lead solo literally explodes from the stereo. It isn’t the only lead break, as there is much more to come a little later, much to my enjoyment; I do love a good guitar solo. The entire composition is bathed in synths to add depth and darker atmosphere, whilst the heavily effected spoken-word vocals also make an appearance. In short, it’s a really heavy, but surprisingly smooth opening that paves the way for the remainder of the record.
If I had any other criticism, it’d be that the songs do become just a little bit ‘samey’, with a lack of real tangible variety as the album progresses; you hear the opening couple of songs and by and large, you’ve heard the modus operandi of Wythersake in full. I also proffer that a couple of the tracks are slightly on the long side and would benefit from a minor prune here or there, such as the nine-plus-minute ‘Through Ritual We Manifest’.
What cannot be criticised however, is the overall talent of the band and the enjoyable nature of the majority of the material, variety or not. ‘The Advent’ is a highly symphonic blackened death metal track, with strong choir effects, lots of melody that grows stronger with each passing listen, alongside more excellent lead guitar solos. It’s a similar story for ‘From A Serpent Spoken’, one of my personal favourites. The mid-section gallops along with a discernible groove whilst the keys tinkle and the drums are a devastating barrage of blasts and lightning-fast fills. And the symphonic-led melodies that dance atop a malevolent barrage of riff, growls and rhythms within ‘Iniquity’ are some of the strongest and most immediate on ‘Antiquity’.
If I had to sum up ‘Antiquity’, which I do because that’s what reviewers are supposed to do, I’d say that it is a highly ambitious and well-executed album of symphonic blackened death metal. It has plenty of quality and some cracking songs nestled within the hour-long record. But it isn’t the finished article – it lacks just a little in the variety stakes and it’s just a touch too bloated. However, what’s most exciting is that I can just sense that there’s more to come from this talented quartet in the coming years. I shall be keeping an eye on Wythersake to see what comes next, that’s for sure.
The Score of Much Metal: 81%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: