A few years ago I was pleasantly surprised when the Norwegian progressive metal band Withem debuted with The Point Of You (2013, see review), a very strong album with elements from the Scandinavian progressive metal scene as well as parts from the technical US counterparts. 2016 marks the successor for this album; The Unforgiving Road which is presented to us with a slightly changed line-up. Founders, guitarist Øyvind Voldmo Larsen and drummer Frank Nordeng Røe remained with vocalist Ole Aleksander Wagenius. However, keyboard player Ketil Ronold has not returned on the new CD and the bass duties, performed on The Point Of You by Seventh Wonder's Andreas Blomqvist, now are in the hands of Withem's latest member Miguel Pereira, who joined the band somewhere in 2013. For The Unforgiving Road the ivories are played by special guests Espen Stora (ex Circus Maximus) and Neemias Texeira.
After a short Intro, which is a bit in the vein of landsmen Leprous, the song Exit kicks in. A song that profiles vocalist Ole Aleksander's voice as one with range, as well as power and a bit of roughness. The song itself is a very strong progressive metal song with both impressive guitar parts as well as layers of keyboards and some subtle piano to backup Ole Aleksander at the end of the song. The following In The Hands Of A God again is a very strong progressive metal composition-perhaps Withem is continuing the metallic line of label mates Circus Maximus before their slight change to a more melodic style. Pagan's Mind as well as Symphony X leave their marks on several compositions; the aforementioned for sure, but also the The Pain I Collected and The Eye In The Sky; with a very catchy, slightly bombastic vocal arrangement. Sentimental, but without going over the top is the relatively smooth ballad Riven; keyboard driven, but with a powerful touch during the guitar solo. The long C'est La Vie tends to go into the direction of Seventh Wonder, highlighting force and melody and the fine keyboards. My personal favourite comes by the name of Arrhythmia; here the bass gives direction with an amazing sound, but also the guitar riffs and strong drumming should also be mentioned here. With the addition of Miguel Pereira, Withem must have hit the bulls eye as this amazing player leaves his mark on the album; sometimes barely noticeable playing his fine lines, other times taking the spotlight and showing his skills. During the tracks In My Will and Unaffected Love the vocals of Ole Aleksander prove he is truly one of the “new” promising vocalists from Scandinavia. His sound blends parts of Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind) with Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder, Kamelot) to an unique powerful voice, which makes the album very, very pleasant to listen to.
The Unforgiving Road is another wonderful album by our Norwegian friends Withem. The band sticks to the powerful metal side of progressive music, but also imbeds nice melodic and catchy parts. Like I mentioned, in Ole Aleksander, Withem has an amazing vocalist. The overall sound is great, highlighting the marvellous bass as well as all the superb guitar parts, strong drums, but not forgetting the so needed keyboards and piano. I don't know the present status of the band regarding a keyboard player, but I would recommend adding Espen Stora to their line-up.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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