Someone asked me about the future of metal recently and I gave a standard-issue “metal is doing fine” response. Aside from some creative issues that are merely a matter of my own preferences, the only problem that I can see is how the genre has been forced underground. We’re at a point where the upper strata of metal—and I’m talking about current torchbearers, not Grandfather or established acts—are relatively unknown to mainstream music supporters. I have to believe that if you were to quiz an eighteen year old kid on who they’ve heard of, they’d pick Iron Maiden over, say, Mastodon the majority of the time.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the underbelly tends to make great creative fodder for metal, but what about the farm-league metal acts? The ones that still have to tuck their hair up at their day jobs or wear long-sleeve shirts to cover the ink on their arms?
Atlanta, Georgia’s Withered is that second-tier metal band walking among us, working in the mail room or some other behind the scenes capacity, quietly suppressing their urge to rock during days of conformity only to unleash it all at the rehearsal space at night. And I’m not slagging them by calling Withered a “farm-league” band either. What I mean is that, like a minor-league ball player, they’re doing it out of passion and not for the paycheck. Besides, I’m willing to bet that they probably make barely enough to pay for the gas that gets them to the next town on tour.
It’s one thing to praise a band for their moxie, of course, but it’s entirely another thing to be able to praise them for their execution as well as their determination.
Folie Circulaire, the band’s second album, demonstrates that this quartet not only has a passion for their chosen genre, but they’re also quite good at it. With their latest, Withered delivers 45 minutes of worthy black metal built on a foundation of ginormous guitar swells that would make Kevin Shields‘ knees buckle. And while the band’s six-string façade is its most notable achievement, special mention needs to be made to the band’s freshmen rhythm section of Mike Longoria (bass) and Beau Brandon (drums) providing the twin guitar attack of Mike Thompson and Chris Freeman with enough support to make sure the entire thing doesn’t fall over from its own weight.
Yes, things get a bit heavy throughout the ten songs on Folie Circulaire. Lyrics are often built on mere associations with darkness (“A perilous balance / Succumb / Condemn / Malign / Rot” – “Purification of Ignorance”) and they occasionally border on silliness. But at other times, the men strike gold with their see-what-sticks-to-the-wall tactics; “Drawn Black Drapes” (“I dream of black drapes / Swaying with the wind”) conveys enough dark imagery lyricism to place Withered at the top of black metal’s vast wasteland wordsmiths.
They pay tribute to those who’ve laid waste before them with the album-closing cover of Necrophobic‘s “Into Armageddon.” But based on the walls of sound that Withered has made on their own with Folie Circulaire, it will be difficult for any band to follow their path of lofty structures.
Here’s hoping that on the band’s future roadwork (they’re on the road until forever) will provide them with enough money coming in to get them to the next town. Because the real darkness, the thing that’s more bleak than Folie Circulaire‘s overall themes, is the possibility that the band’s creativity could be stifled at some shitty dayjob when they should be making a decent living by doing this.