While Nocturnes And Requiems and its follow-up, A Prelude To Sorrow, quickly established California’s WITHERFALL as modern prog-power players on a field that simply doesn’t have that many worthy competitors in the band’s native US, I confess a bit of trepidation when it came to The Curse Of Autumn. Would this be just another disappointment when it comes to third albums released thus far in 2021, or would the quintet finally find their own sound and wake the sleeping giant I felt might lie dormant within?
After the neck-snapping rhythms and skipping riffs of ‘The Last Scar’ revealed itself as the opening track to The Curse Of Autumn, I hoped I was in good hands. Founding guitarist Jake Dreyer may draw comparisons in his solo work to Herman Li, but there’s more emotion at work within what he does than it seems Li’s capable of within DRAGONFORCE, and his attack doesn’t seem quite so toothless, so technique-driven. And then the opening bars of ‘As I Lie Awake’ faltered, seeming like a knock-off KING’S X pattern, and – if I’m being honest with myself – there’s so much NEVERMORE-aping in the verses and STRATOVARIOUS mimicry in the choruses, that the entire song’s a waste except for one thing. The. Video. Guys, SPINAL TAP called, they want the rough cut of their third album’s opening video back. Had a tiny Stonehenge descended into the background of any scene, it wouldn’t have been out of place, only the satire here is entirely unintentional, and that is painful.
‘Tempest’ reclaims some of the glory, but if vocalist Joseph Michael ever created anything resembling an original melody line in his life, he’d probably shit himself into something actually worthwhile. Listening to his delivery, the seasoned ear can find itself playing a somewhat entertaining game of “Guess the vocalist” when determining exactly who he’s attempting to doppelganger, and what’s even worse is that he’s good. Very good, only not when it comes to making something his own. It’s easy to see why the somewhat-reformed SANCTUARY tapped him for mic duties, but also rather annoying when you realize why. He’s pliable, and not too concerned about finding his own voice, it seems.
I could go song by song, but after a listen to The Curse Of Autumn for the third time, I’m pretty sure I never will again. WITHERFALL has all the ingredients for a fine entree except the one so many other bands forget as well – that originality can sometimes be taking just enough from what’s come before to season your own recipe without overpowering.
Review By: Lord Randall
The Curse Of Autumn
2 / 6