Progressive metal was a term I was not familiar with when I first heard it back in the early 2000’s. But, once I started reading some of the bands that were associated with the moniker, it made total sense. I had grown up listening to bands like Queensryche (when they could be considered progressive), graduated to Fates Warning and Crimson Glory. I think the first time I actually heard a band be classified as progressive metal was Dream Theater when reading an article about their “Images and Words” album. It totally made sense. The next deviation I picked up on was progressive death metal when the iconic “Blackwater Park” was dropped in my lap by a co-worker at Best Buy. MIND BLOWN!!! Since then I have always kept my ears open to any band that puts itself in that category. So when I saw the Descend album “Wither”, released January 24th, 2014 through Inverse Records on the promo list, my ears immediately perked up.
Descend is a progressive death metal band from Stockholm, Sweden. The band was formed in 2003 and the current line-up of Nima Farhadian L. (Vocals), Andreas Lindström (Guitars), Alex Wijkman (Guitars), Justin Biggs (Bass), and Jonathan Persson (Drums) dates back to 2008. “Wither” is Descend‘s second full length album, and clocking in at 56 minutes with only 8 tracks, it’s a doozy. From the opening bell these guys don’t mess around. The riffs of ‘Confined by Evil’ put you into a sweet, slow windmill headbang and keep you there. Descend throws everything at you but the kitchen sink in this song; great guitars, killer drumming, growling, and melodic clean vocals. There’s even some acoustic guitar during the bridge for good measure! Thankfully it’s not all downhill from here. ‘The Rancorous Paradigm’ keeps up the intensity, and picks up the pace. ‘In Hours of Despair’ starts out with a cool Gojira-esque groove and builds off of it before slipping into something that sounds like it was plucked out of Opeth’s “Ghost Reveries” album. From the title track (an all-acoustic guitar ditty) to the epic final track, aptly titled ‘Sundown’, the remainder of the album continues slipping back and forth between tranquil, atmospheric playing to a barrage of apocalyptic death metal. The quality of the production of the album compliments the quality of the musicianship.
For me, the comparisons between Descend and Opeth are undeniable and enjoyable. If you were a little less than pleased with Opeth’s last offering “Heritage”, than this is the album for you. Not that I think Descend is an Opeth clone band, not at all. I mean, wouldn’t you want to try and model your musical inspiration from, if not one of the best? I think Descend are on their way to their own “Blackwater Park”, and maybe “Wither” is it.