Track-By-Track Review: WitherscapeThe Northern Sanctuary

Let’s “murder the path of dependence” together with the first use of our experimental Toilet ov Hell track-by-track-o-meter.

To summarize a short historical introduction, Ragnar Widerberg (also known as the guitarist of the melodic power metal band Shadowquest and for rocking a huge moustache) and Dan Swäno (ehhh, just judge for yourself) teamed up in 2013 as Witherscape with the goal of continuing the contrasting Swedish tradition of crafting evocative melodies along abrasive obscurity. The Inheritance, their debut, came up the same year with both of them handling all the instrumentation, composition, lyrics and concept crafting, supported by some guest musicians to add some keyboarding and growling to their eclectic canvas. The album garnered a positive reaction from critics and fans, mostly hailed for the carefully written progressive death metal elements. A year later, an EP was released to rekindle the Witherscape flame and gave a hint of the upcoming future of the duo.


So, here we are in 2016 with a new album, entitled The Northern Sanctuary, that shakes once more their formula with new aspects. Is it good? Is it a less charming repetition of their first hit? Let’s find out with our experimental Toilet ov Hell track-by-track-o-meter (And, boy, we do hope this cheap old crock does not explode in our heads with this sensational record):

“Wake of Infinity”

4-5-toilet-track-by-track-meterA sense of eerie danger opens with the 70’s inspired keyboard melodies coiled around the Opeth-ian circular guitar riff. Descending into the maelstrom, the first minutes of the song go to an unstoppable road of speed metal inspiration, reminiscent of the fastest segments of the final Edge of Sanity era. Dan Swäno vocals ascend and descend with mastery and explode into a beautiful bridge that leads to an infernal chorus. The cut-in-half segment is carefully placed to give an excellent variation and endow the return of the infernal chorus in the final seconds with a cathartic vibe. “Wake of Infinity” is a good opening of the album with great twists.

“In the Eyes of the Idols”

5-5-toilet-track-by-track-meterWith a more hard-rockish inspired sentiment, the second cut of The Northern Sanctuary is an instant hit. Remembering the “Black Tears” catchy hooks and his Nightingale project, Dan Swäno growls with fierce attitude over a mellow wall of keyboards, and the main riffing induces a more pop framework in which the duo plays with careful balance. With his singing, he commands the attack until the melodic death metal carnage concludes in an epic constructed jam with a perfectly executed solo by Mr. Ragnar.

“Rapture Ballet”

4-5-toilet-track-by-track-meterAnother killer addition to the track listing is this twisting progressive song. Keyboards once again initiate the dancing, and the guitars sum up the contrapuntal following with a solid rhythmic base. Dan’s vocal range explores different sceneries inside his baritone coloratura; his raspy croons and sweet highs embellish the ambiance with gusto. Wonderful guitar work, with those elastic melodic riffs inspired by folk and progressive death metal rituals matching the razor-sharp soloing. In short, this is one of the best songs of this piece.

“The Examiner”

3-5-toilet-track-by-track-meterWith a mellower introduction and powerful baritone vocals, the hooking machinery of the album rests a little with this mid-tempo ode. This is the link that Witherscape crafted to their previous album; more moody, more touching. The hard rock riffage acts again as liberation from the pessimistic beginning; the duo explores once again the come-and-go of the contrasting battle between the ballads vs. the extreme music harshness, placing the keyboards strategically in segments to aid the ambiance. The arabesque guitar riff at 3:29 is a delicious addition, of course.


3-5-toilet-track-by-track-meterAfter “The Examiner” gap in the extremity, the fifth song of the album enters in an anxiety-inducing calm. Dan’s growls are clear, vibrating and demonic at the same time in the chorus, while the verses sound like a depressing lullaby. The morose slower segments feel a bit disjointed compared to the explosive death metal doom extravaganza, but this is another good cut with such a great low bottom sound.


4-5-toilet-track-by-track-meterKicking off with a sweet synth melody, once again the band develops their degenerated Scorpions hard rock melodeath with splendor. The sixth song has such a bright and mellow vibe that it will make you smile from start to finish. While it can feel a bit rushed in the songwriting department, the hard-rocking experience of this piece should be a great addition to a high-octane playlist with those playful melodies.

“God of Ruin”

3-5-toilet-track-by-track-meterUnlike the previous song, “God of Ruin” is welcomed with a slower riff, but one that is way more embellished with some beautiful progressive curls and twists. Around the middle of this trip, the “proggy” elements circumvent the space but are then paired along with a couple of space synthesizers that welcome sudden aggressive punches in a tension-and-release exercise. Soaring high, the progressive nature of this track does not shy away from the hooks of the vocals, which go hand in hand with the main riffing.

“The Northern Sanctuary”

5-5-toilet-track-by-track-meterThe title track is massive, I repeat… MASSIVE! The composition is twisted, progressive and vicious. Do not let the haunting intro deceive the initial listening, because the intensive drumming segment of the verses pays off to a relentless attack of death metal burbling darkness. The long structure of this song does not push it to mediocrity; instead, the duo carefully selected the pieces and times with a clockwork-level precise song-crafting to adjust every riff and structure to the optimal form. 5/5.

“Vila I Frid”

3-5-toilet-track-by-track-meterThe translation to the English of this Swedish phrase can be “rest in peace,” but this charming song is the tender breeze that finishes the record in the perfect Swedish extreme metal tradition. A sad delicate piano decorates the landscape, followed by the perennial silence. Perhaps a sudden cut in the end, but it is a short track that serves its purpose, to remind the listener that death is not the end because you can spin this record again. 3/5.

*beep* *beep* *beep*

We have the results on our Toilet ov Hell homemade machine: Witherscape’s The Northern Sanctuary has a well-rounded rating of:


In summary: this is a record that kicks a huge amount of asses, with a gorgeous crystal-clear production and a huge batch of twists that will appeal to the melodic metal aficionados or the progressive heads.

You can jam this album on Spotify, and you can get a sweet physical release on Century Media Records; remember to follow them on Facebook and tell this maniacal duo that the Half-Elf Lord of Venezuela commanded you to say “Hola” or “Aiyá”.

Photo: VIA

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    This is a really cool setup for reviews. Excellent work as always Link! I may have to give this a peek.

    • Thanks, bro! I put extra effort to pull this! Hope you dig the tunes!

      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        Yeah man, I like the idea of ranking each track on its own merit. Allows for a more in depth view of the album

        • Jack Rabbit

          I think it depends on what album is being reviewed. Some albums, especially conceptual ones, are probably better judged based on themes and overall sound; whereas others work better with a track by track.

      • Jack Rabbit

        Gonna check this out later. I’ve actually never listened to a Swano album, might as well start here.

        • I wish you the best.

          Be sure to pinpoint this bad boy in your journey:

          • Jack Rabbit

            I’ll keep that in mind. I’ve always heard them compared to early Opeth, so I always meant to check them out.

          • EoS went to Swedeath to a melodic proggy death metal. If you are still interested in their first era, I really recommend The Spectral Sorrows too.

        • Owlswald

          Moontower for the win

        • RJA

          “never actually listened to a Swano album”
          mind blown!

          • Mind blown is certified after listen two Swäno albums 😀

          • Jack Rabbit

            I think that I’ve been intimidated by the amount of music he has put out, so I’ve always been hesitant to dive in

          • So are you saying that you have been hesitant to dive down that rabbit hole? lolz

        • JAG intensifies

  • Sorry for the pals that are searching for an instant embed. My connection was horrid when submitting this one.

    To repent my sins, check out these:

    And take a puppy if you don’t dig the music:

    • If I were to judge that album art, I would assume dragon-fuckery was going to occur. I am please to have found out that is not the case.



        • That pesky Hubert is everywhere!

        • Owlswald

          Listening to it now. I really like it and think it’s one of his stronger efforts in quite some time.

          • The “big” sound of the record is reeeeeaaallly doing it for me.



          • Owlswald

            The Truth remake is cool at the beginning as well.

          • Jack Rabbit

            “Higher” is such a cool track. Makes up for those all those pointlessly long songs on Deconstruction.

          • I freaking love your name.

          • Jack Rabbit

            Thanks 😀
            After watching a forty minute surrealist sitcom on rabbits, thought I may as well grab a disqus name out of it so the time wouldn’t seem so pointless.

          • Joaquin Stick

            Agreed. Higher was excellent. I wasn’t expecting to like the album as much as I did. Some really great tracks hidden in there.

    • Puppers!

      • Nadinewturner4

        Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !ro552f:
        On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
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    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      I loved this album Lonk! But i haven’t spent as much time with it as I’d like to have.

  • That one dude looks like a young Lemmy. With out the mole of course.

  • xengineofdeathx

    I’m digging this a lot more than the first album, the vocals sounded like DVDA and I couldn’t get into it, despite some awesome moments.

  • W.

    Link, your descriptions here are A+. You have such a colorful way of describing music.

    • Everytime you say something positive of my and my writing, I feel so humbly honored!

  • Joaquin Stick

    Link! Excellent job. The two songs you gave 5/5 are unreal. I’ve been pretty unthrilled with melodeath recently but this album kills.

    • I’m very happy because this year have been cool for melodeath. All the records are moving on from the Slaughter Of The Soul-esque riffing to a more disparate version and more concise vibes. The proggy melodeath is having a good time 😀

      Thanks, Joaquín!

  • Stockhausen

    I really enjoyed this review format! I’m not crazy about the album, but I don’t dislike it either. I might give it a few spins just for funzies.

    • You can also call me from your grave to murder some path of dependance!!!

  • Waynecro

    Outstanding review, Link. I’ll definitely give this album a listen!

  • wtf ‘The Examiner’ is an easy 6/5

  • Ayreonaut

    Kk warslut rides a hoveround lol