Originally written by Doug Moore.
A word of advice for young bands: melodic metal bands that do without choppy Gothenburg thrash and clean vocals are a commodity these days. If your basement unit is looking to play melodeath, stay the hell away from that sound and you might even convince people you’ve got a smidgen of originality. Take a gander at Withered, for example. Here you have a band composed largely of crust-punk types from Atlanta (ex-Social Infestation members) who have managed to throw together a debut album that’s a damn sight more refreshing than recent output by far more experienced peers (you listening, Dew-Scented?). The magic is in the ingredients: instead of stampeding lemming-like towards the cliff of stultifying Gothenburg redundancy, they elect to cull from a broader, more interesting range of styles. Specifically, Memento Mori (and what the hell is with everyone using this title?) features a blend of “Like An Everflowing Stream”-era Dismember, trudging doom-death, and a bit of crusty aftertaste in the production. It’s nothing wildly original, but it’s a strange enough beast to provide some respite for this reviewer’s galloping-weary ears.
The album gets off to a good start with “It’s All Said,” which nicely blends tremolo-picked Amon Amarth progressions with speedy traditional death metal. The emphasis here is more on the slamming chordage than melodic leads; the guitars regularly lock into buzzing harmonic counterpoint, but never stray too far before diving back into the downtuned riffs. Withered aren’t afraid to turn up the speed and hostility on sub-three-minute chargers like “Silent Grave” and “Fear and Pain That Cripples Me,” but are really at their best when laying down more trudging cadences. Probably the strongest cut to be had here is “Like Locusts,” which channels My Dying Bride before exploding into a vortex of Stockholm rage and then settling into a punishing trudge for the song’s duration. Closer “Among Sorrow” runs a close second with its tense tom-work and long instrumental stretches. The production benefits the album’s slower moments with its thick, fuzzy tone, but occasionally turns to muddy paste when asked to handle speed. This actually lends a bit of a punk edge to the mids-heavy riffing, which can be a little disconcerting but makes it clear that these guys aren’t really quite as metal as they initially seem.
Even aside from the impressive songwriting quality, Memento Mori is a worthwhile album simply because it provides an unusual take on a genre that is ordinarily the apotheosis of stagnation. While I’d recommend Hypocrisy’s new slab over this one, it is certainly not to be missed by those looking for a little more piss and vinegar in their melodic death metal.