WITHERING SCORN – Prophets Of Demise
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
BAND URL: https://m.facebook.com/Witheringscorn
There was a sense, after the excellent The System Has Failed²⁰⁰⁴ Dave Mustaine’s intended solo album turned Megadeth’s comeback record (after the supposed 2002 end of the line), that Megadeth was back and stronger than ever. Dave Mustaine did not waste the momentum but, having previously gained former Black Label Society’s bassist James Lamenzo, reached out to brothers Drover in the Canadian power thrash and speed metal band Eidolon for former King Diamond and Queensrÿche guitarist Glen and drummer Shawn, and that new linup proceeded to record the promising United Abominations²⁰⁰⁷ (effectively suspending Eidolon in the process). While the record was good, excellent precisely for the first 6 tracks, it clearly bore marks of Mustaine’s dubious experimentation, such as the mediocre “Play For Blood” or the needless re-recording of “A Tout Le Monde” from the near perfect Youthanasia¹⁹⁹⁴ (my personal third favorite Megadeth record). Even listening to it back in 2007 I could tell which songs were likely brought in by the Drover brothers and which were suggested by Megadeth’s main man. Indeed, the record is half cooked and let’s leave it at that.
What made me certain of the aforementioned assertion was the new project formed by the Drover brothers after Glen’s expulsion from Megadeth (in exchange for Chris Broderick fresh from Jag Panzer) right before that fantastic full and complete return to form by Megadeth, Endgame²⁰⁰⁹ (my personal 5th favorite Megadeth’s record) and Shawn’s departure right after the mediocre Supercollider²⁰¹³ (replaced by Lamb Of God’s Chris Adler for Dystopia²⁰¹⁶), Withering Scorn, and the occasion, their debut Prophets Of Demise²⁰²³ released on Frontiers Records on July 7th. If I were to sum it up in one phrase it would be: a near perfect record the Drovers never got a chance to make with United Abominations²⁰⁰⁷, or, better yet, the proof that record’s almost mediocrity wasn’t their fault.
Having coopted an amazing throat in the person of Metallium and former Brainstorm vocalist Henning Basse as well as former Fates Warning bassist Joseph DiBiase, Withering Scorn went to work without compromise or allegiance to any genre boundaries and the result is truly astounding. Songs like the thrashing “Pick Up The Pieces” bring back memories of Jeff Lumis and Nevermore and records such as Dead Heart In A Dead World²⁰⁰⁰ or Judas Priest’s Painkiller¹⁹⁹⁰ (these Rob Halfordesque highs!), a seemingly unlikely combination made flesh. The favorite “Dethroned”, wisely chosen as the video single, hits you square in the jaw with its Powerslave¹⁹⁸⁴ Iron Maiden melodiscism and double chorus songwriting and classic Megadeth soloing wizzardry, while “Never Again” is, again, Nevermore but on contemporary Arch Enemy, well, not quite the death metal but, fear not, for “Dark Reflection” is surprisingly succesfully combining death metal, the Testamentian thrash and hard rocking stylings vocals a’la Ozzy Osbourne or even Guns’N’Roses’ Axl Rose, another testimony to Withering Scorn’s excellent songwriting knowledge skills and abilities but wait, there’s more, as they save a real progressive surprise for the end, “Eternal Screams” a Panteric “This Love” with Queensrÿche verses and Dream Theatrical structure and transitions, with insightful lyrics rightfully challenging Christian tradition based on the Calvinistic doctrine which erroneously holds that everything that happens is God’s will, including man’s wickedness which Henning rightly deems denied by God’s absolute will, and I agree, because God cannot be all-loving, all-knowing and have His all-powerful will expressed via everything always happening according to His will since if God’s will were wickedness of man including man living in it without the hope of redemption (from what, God’s will?) God wouldn’t just be unworthy of loving or worship but even so much as thinking about, and what Henning seems to be yearning for is the truth free from religious traditions and doctrines which are not merely hogwash but an insult to God man and reason.
The philosophical musings with fantastic heavy metal music would still ring weak without apt power and there’s that crunchy powerful yet clear production reminiscent of Chuck Schuldiner’s Control Denied and The Fragile Art Of Existence¹⁹⁹⁹ (especially the opening title track) or Darkane’s underated Demonic Art²⁰⁰⁸ (particularly “Ancient Desire”), which brings the number of excellent to perfect tracks to 4/8, which, in turn, brings me to the flaws, starting with the impression that 8 tracks in 40:22 minutes does feel a little short. Furthermore, my finding the rest of the tracks as merely 5/6 each, (which would lower the score even further if there were more tracks than 8), as well that the second half is about a 0.5 stronger than the first, further justifies the 0.5 point deduction. Of course, I’m aware that, as is usually the case with excellent records, the tracks I rated just 5/6 have enough variation and contain enough different ideas and turns that chances are other reviewers may rate them higher. However, with all the accolades, I feel like Withering Scorn could have taken even more risks and pressed for more variety, things to address on the follow up, which to say still that I hope this isn’t the last record we hear from these guys, especially since this is easily one of the strongest debuts in recent memory, one which gives even the latest Megadeth record a run for its money.