Review: “Last Contact” by Withering Soul

The return of Chicago Illinois Blackened Melodic Death Metal outfit Withering Soul with their fourth studio album “Last Contact” mixed and mastered by Dennis Israel at Clintworks Audio (Misery Index, Amon Amarth) has been a long time coming but in many ways to be expected with four years the shortest duration between albums and seven the longest in a career that began with 2004’s “Apparitions of the Surreal“. As with 2015’s spellbinding Black Metal Odyssey “Adverse Portrait” the band have chosen to Pierre-Alain D. of 3mmi Design to create the albums stunning artwork with a return to Belle City Sound for drum recording, however that is where the similarities end. Reading the liner notes there seems to have been a line up shift on the surface at least, leaving multi instrumentalist and mastermind Christopher (previously credited as Krystofer) as the last man standing with vocal, guitar and synth duties…

The guitar and vocal recording of “Last Contact” was engineered by Exhul from Ossilegium and curiously every instrument was recorded in a separate studio, however that has not had any form of adverse effect on this burnt offering to the Gods of Valhalla. Belle City Sound has given the bands new drummer, credited simply as Rick, a colossal drum sound that provides a thunderous backdrop to each of these Blackened Death Metal cuts, each one an all conquering artillery shell bombardment of blast beats and rampaging fills in keeping with the finest of the frosty Nordic scene that has clearly influenced Withering Soul. As you might expect, the vocals are demonic, the atmosphere shrouded in a cloak of darkness in a restless and relentless onslaught as intoxicating as a bottle of absinthe on a cold night in front of a roaring fire. The melodies are intense and there are varying degrees of epic grandeur beneath the layers here that give something cinematic and spellbinding in a place you’d least expect to find it, “Carrion Reflection” being a prime example as the synths rise like a beast from the black depths. Credited as a trio, the work of a quintet has gone into the musicianship with the haunting leads and vibrant solo in “Of Blackened Pillars” being something really special. Lyrically “Last Contact” is a concept album of harrowing tales as if inked by Clive Barker that elaborate on the idea of receiving a communication from someone or something from beyond the grave. That comes in various guises from a star flickering in the night sky to a creepy voice recording and it is left up to the observers interpretation as to if that could be something more sinister than it at first appears and for some of those protagonists, the result is maddening. Menacing and punishing throughout, “Into the Harrowing Expanse” takes us on another breakneck hell ride down the left hand path while still having time for some tremolo picking chaos and sinister leads that make it one of the stand out cuts here. Fleeting Gothic overtones and clean vocal moments in the crescendo that is “Uncharted Course” add something unexpected to the record but in truth it captures the imagination with its dramatic mood swings and eerie atmospheres long before it reaches that final flourish [8/10]

Track listing

1. Visitation
2. Allegory of the Void
3. Carrion Reflection
4. Of Blackened Pillars
5. Ascent to Madness
6. Into the Harrowing Expanse
7. The Transcendence of Night
8. Uncharted Course

Last Contact” by Withering Soul is out 24th September 2021 via Mortal Music and is available for pre-order over at bandcamp.

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