I remember it as if it were yesterday, wandering down the darkest and most bizarre alleyways New Orleans had to offer, blasting Folie Circulaire so loudly through my headphones that it felt as if putrid filth was being permanently injected into my brain. I was waiting any minute for the cement to split apart and for decades of accumulated drug-filled ooze, STD-filled piss and horse shit to ensnare me and drag me down into the bottomless depths of everlasting nothingness. As unpleasant as this may seem, a part of me would have enjoyed it, so long as Withered would have remained the soundtrack to this theoretical event.
What was once a band who played something impossible to fit into any specific genre has brought you something much more straightforward this time around. There is no doubting the notion that the loss of founding member Chris Freeman must have had something to do with the band’s sound alteration. Nevertheless, Withered has delivered something just as good as their 2008 release, albeit different. Although traces of the band’s past madness can be heard throughout their latest effort, it’s safe to say that Dualitas fits well into the ever-expanding USBM category. Allow me to get right to the bottom of things — this thing mercilessly crushes almost all of its competitors as far as black metal releases this year are concerned. Personally, I haven’t enjoyed a black metal album of this nature this much since Krallice’s Dimensional Bleedthrough, but let’s stop with the comparisons right now. Although Withered seems to have slid away from their bizarre blend of sludge-death-black-grind-doom-whateverthefuckyoucallit, Dualitas maintains a very high degree of originality and uniqueness.
“Extinguished with the Weary” immediately encompasses the listener with a monstrous guitar wall accompanied by the usual blast beating and unstoppable vocal artillery, for which the cover of Folie Circulaire stands as an accurate personification provided the artist pencils in some shrapnel this time around. A unique aspect of the album is its accessibility, as it doesn’t present the mindfuck that bands such as the late Mayhem or Deathspell Omega have done in recent efforts. Dualitas is still a challenging listen, but digesting it isn’t going to give you an aneurysm much like the one you received the last time you were undergoing chronic constipation. “Residue in the Void” adds to the mix what any fan of USBM looks for in an album, that is, a proper degree of tremolo melody slightly muffled by intricately placed feedback and lower rhythmic sections. Withered pretty much maintains this same formula for the rest of the album, with continuous variation naturally, but not enough to bring about any real surprises. Although the song structure of the album is different, the musicianship and production values displayed throughout Dualitas both bear a striking resemblance to those of its predecessor. One production aspect in particular is the clarity and intensity of Mike Longoria’s bass guitar, especially on the track “Aethereal Breath.” All in all, the album’s production is top-notch…even to the extent that listening to its instrumentation individually is fully enjoyable.
Withered has always been able to make instrumental, transitional passages such as the simplistically titled “Interlude” and “Outro” sound remarkably substantive — much more than the average self-indulgent, drone-filler technique used to give the illusion that an album is actually lengthy. Speaking of length, the only downside to Dualitas is that it’s around forty-two minutes. However, this can be easily alleviated by simply pressing the REPEAT button. Personally, I have been listening to this album much like black metal albums of old, that is, treating it as if it was inherently meant to have a side A and side B. I can’t really give much explanation for this other than that it’s probably my black metal worshiping instinct telling me to do so, but taking a break halfway through the album is definitely not going to hurt in this instance. Quite a convenient trait for an album to have, for one is often pressed for time.
It appears as if there is only ever going to be one Folie Circulaire, and that’s a good thing. Withered has not only proven that they can stand among the greatest producers of post-modern black metal music, but they’ve also left us with a high degree of uncertainty as to what they’ll attempt next. Regardless of how their next meal is dished out, I think we should all brace ourselves for something memorable…both for the ugly scars and the exquisite residue that will fill our brains upon cochlear ingestion.