Blackened Death Metal is a tightrope genre, upon which many bands can easily slip and fall to low acclaim. To compromise the sound of two distinct genres can be a turnoff to stalwart fans of either genre. Only a handful of bands, such as ARKHON INFAUSTUS, BELPHEGOR and CRIONICS have been able to ascend from the wishy-wash and validate this fusion-genre's existence.
Swedish quartet WITHERSHIN doesn't rise to the level of these masters, but they get damned close with their debut offering, "Ashen Banners". This is textbook Blackened Death Metal: tremolo melodies, dynamic drumming and mid-range growls all packaged into an in-your-face production.
This band capitalizes on its violent sound, and it's not ashamed to pay homage to the greats of blackened death. Compare “Reap The Impurities” to some of BELPHEGOR's later outputs. But unlike those Austrians, WITHERSHIN is lacking in terms of direction and memorability. Only a handful of riffs on the album could I call “great,” such as the main riff to “Reincarnation.” Later in the song is a short melodic tremolo section that the rest of the album could have thrived upon. The vocals, as hatefully as they are delivered, are too low in the mix to achieve that effect. The clean vocals on “Disdain” don't help at all.
If I may mention BELPHEGOR once more, that band soars through its use of melody on top of crushing Death Metal rhythms. WITHERSHIN play a very similar style, but without writing formidable melodies, your music can only appeal to those well-entrenched in Blackened Death Metal. It's a solid effort, and definitely worth a gander. Fall back on this one if you were turned off by the experimentation of "Bondage Goat Zombie".
(Online July 7, 2008)