In the vibrant realm of metaldom, bands switch members like most of us switch shirts. After Illusion Suite’s debut Final Hour, they had just such a shake up. Though they stayed the course and released the stellar Iron Cemetery, we the fans were rewarded doubly with the debut of the new melodic progressive metal band Withem.
The band was formed in 2011 when Øyvind Voldmo Larsen (guitars) and Ketil Ronold (keyboards) formerly of Illusion Suite met drummer Frank Nordeng Røe and later recruited vocalist Ole Aleksander Wagenius. The Point Of You was produced and mixed by guitarist Øyvind Voldmo Larsen For the debut album special guest Andreas Blomqvist of Seventh Wonder handled bass duties. Withem’s music shows influences from fellow prog metal heroes such as Dream Theater, Circus Maximus, Pagan’s Mind, Seventh Wonder, and Symphony X but also retains an original style.
The first single titled Point of View begins with a symphonic flourish and a heavy guitar riff. Ronold’s keyboards add a layer of brightness and melody while Wagenius shows his considerable vocal range and power throughout the intricate time changes. Miracle has a Dream Theater-esque keyboard flair with a Norwegian touch. The lead and harmony vocals soar and drummer Nordeng Røe gets to show his considerable chops. The proceedings get a heavier touch on the bottom heavy Phrenesis. Wagenius really gets to show off his upper register with some blood curdling screams. Burned By Senses is another stellar prog metal track with great melodies and harmonies, crunchy guitars, scintillating keyboard passages, and shredding guitar solos. Special guest bassist Blomqvist’s pounding bass makes his presence known on the intro to Mr. Miruz, a quirky progressive tune with plenty of dramatic shifts, proggy moments as well as heavy guitar rhythms. Born To Live is an energetic uplifting anthem with a positive message. The lead vocals of Wagenius soar and the music is reminiscent of fellow Norwegians Circus Maximus. The chorus is one of my favorites on the album and should go over well in a live environment. The Paramount of Lies has a bombastic and dramatic orchestral beginning before transforming into a a heavy prog metal groove that will get your head banging vigorously! Wagenius’ vocals take on a darker more theatrical tone on this song to great effect on the albums lengthiest track clocking in at over 7 minutes but never a dull moment throughout. Driven By A Blessing is a mid-tempo rocker with crunchy guitar and a think bass line with Wagenius’ fine vocal work once again impressing this reviewer. The album’s final track Why Me! shines the spotlight on Ronald’s keyboard artistry and Larsen’s shredding guitar leads and a catchy chorus amidst the progressive frenzy of incredible musicianship. Despite the chops of the individuals involved, the songs never suffer from “overplaying” and retain a memorable quality. The future appears to be quite bright for Withem. They just completed a string of shows with Circus Maximus, they are scheduled to have their record release party at ProgPower Oslo on November 16, 2013, and the band was announced as the opener for next years ProgPower USA festival in Atlanta, Georgia. A fine debut and highly recommended for fans of melodic progressive metal.