January 6, 2011 | , | 4.5

Withered, Dualitas

Withered: Dualitas

Folie Circulaire, released in 2008, was, what you might call, a bit hard to pigeonhole. Withered‘s sophomore album was a conglomeration of styles (grind, sludge, death, black) tightly packed into one of the best releases of that year. Much has changed since then. Founding member, Chris Freeman, along with three quarters of the band have left, leaving Mike Thompson the sole carry over.

Some say that change sucks — fuck change — while others embrace it and move forward. It seems that’s just what Thompson has done with Withered. Dualitas is unlike it’s predecessors in that it’s allowed to breathe a good deal more. Sure, there are still some seriously suffocating and dense riffs to go along with Thompson’s tortured and bleak vocals, but there’s a more focused direction with the band’s sound now. The music on this disc lies more in the post black metal arena, but it’s still piped in through sludgy and caustic pipeworks.

Album opener “Extinguished with the Weary” sets the tone early with driving, unrelenting drums and dense riffing as deep, guttural and vicious vocals seem to arise from the darkness with unstoppable force. Carrying a dark atmosphere, the song is chock full of blasting rhythms and a wall of riffs that are dense and textured. This is one of those songs that can define a band and the direction it means to take going forward. Of course, this is Withered we’re talking about and giving away any hint of their future sound is not something they are willing to share with the rest of us. This is heard within the last half of the first track as melancholic guitar tones and a dramatic slowing of the pace sets a somber mood that “Residue in the Void” is more than happy to piggy back upon — the sound throughout this song is mournful, yet oddly uplifting at the same time.

Withered have always been capable of writing and structuring nicely planned and well timed instrumental interludes throughout their albums and Dualitas is no different. “Interlude” is a dramatic transition between a fiercely pounding “Seek The Shrouded” and the more groove oriented and immensely dense “From Shadows.” The final track on the album, “Outro” is just that, a relatively soothing, droning finale to an impressive and varied release that will not only shine as some of the band’s best work, but should have been in my top five favorite albums of 2010 had I been able to get to the review before the new year.

Dualitas has surpassed the band’s previous efforts in terms of musicianship and song structure. It’s a more focused and directional album that is stirring and frightening at the same time. Its full production is dense, textured and spot on for the style of black metal that Thompson and crew have decided to latch onto and make their own. I will be playing this album a whole hell of a lot before I finally decide to move onto something else. An excellent release!