Monday, January 3, 2011
With the new year upon us and all of us nursing our collective residual hangovers and getting back to work (which I'll be doing tomorrow), I feel that the time is ripe for new music that mirrors the despair and cold remorse of another holiday season spent adding credit card debt to the pile and drinking way too much. This holiday season for me was spent in semi-seclusion, save for the family time we had where we all got some Morning Drinking done and toasted the birth of a deity with chocolate flavored red wine, which, disgusting as it sounds, is not as bad as you'd think. However, the thought of a hangover from chocolate wine (it still sounds retarded and gross) is sickening on its own, so I stuck to good old-fashioned Budweiser and celebrated my time off by filling my apartment with the thick, acrid aroma of beer farts. It's as depressing as it sounds, too, which means that it's time to talk about Withered.
I discovered Withered shortly after the release of their sophomore effort Folie Circulaire. I was back in Bakersfield perusing the annals of our best record store (which is, sadly, FYE [??!!?]) when I found the record, which I had just read a review for in Decibel. In those days, my rent was obscenely low and I had lots and lots of disposable income and time devoted to driving around listening to whatever took my fancy, so I obviously felt like numbing the bone-chilling horrors experienced daily by those of us who keep the nation drunk (beer distribution is rough business) with some truly bleak metal. I tried and tried to find the band's debut, Memento Mori, but finding that record is like finding an Austinite who isn't crawling with syphilis (if the strange new string of syphilis PSA's playing on the radio are to be believed, at least). It apparently may as well not exist.
For those of you who aren't in the know, Withered are an American "blackened doom" band who produce music that sounds like Judgment Day in Hell, which if you're a metal d00d, you know Judgment Day in Hell is an awesome thing to sound like. Their music actually sounds how the color (or lack of color, if you want to be a fancy pants) black might sound. It's a nonstop churning maelstrom of desolation and hopelessness, the perfect soundtrack to the depressing emptiness that follows our poorest, most drunken behavior that we inexplicably chose to share with our friends and loved ones. Withered howl and punish, picking the best parts of black metal (washing machine drums, riffs that sound like pure, wintry vitriol, and hissing pterodactyl vocals) and mixing them with the best parts of doom (painfully slow tempo shifts, thick, crushing heaviness, and effects-drenched ambient interludes) to create something that is singular and easily identified.
Bands with this much character and such a unique sound are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and though I can sit around and listen to emotionless tech-death till the cows come home, it's bands like Withered that remind me that metal isn't just meaningless brutality but is capable of carrying a terrible emotional weight with it. This feeling is exhilarating, like an icy plunge into a frozen pond (minus the shrinkage, of course). Dualitas turned out to be everything I was hoping for in a new album and more, and it drives me to the brink of insanity that such bands have to work day jobs while not on tour while Lady Gaga gets endless coverage and money for wearing meat dresses and stupid sunglasses to award shows that are surprisingly easily hijacked by popular rappers with ridiculous opinions.
I got to see Withered live for the second time this past December, and you can read my roundup of the show here, though I think I spent the better part of that review slapping my Trap Them boner around. As such, I'll talk a little about the Withered experience. The show was amazing, but since I had very limited exposure to Withered at that point, having not purchased or even heard Dualitas or Memento Mori yet, I was treated to lots of new music in a live format, which is usually the easiest way to sell me on new music. Withered aren't so lively onstage, but their performance was (from what I was familiar with, at least) spot on, and if you get a chance to go check them out, you should absolutely do it. Their trademark fog machine wasn't there, but they did burn some incense, which helped the vibe and distracted from the smell of crusties and the joints that always make the rounds. I took a moment after the show to go buy a shirt and congratulate Mike Thompson on their inclusion on the Decibel Top 40 Albums of the Year list, where they placed #25 (but should have been placed higher). He was nice about being approached and congratulated by some weirdo, and I kept the conversation adequately short, because my first impulse with those kinds of interactions is to talk to the subject until they realize that we'd be best friends. Unsurprisingly, I've never convinced any of the artists I admire that we would be best friends.
Check out Withered on tour with Danzig and Toxic Holocaust and go buy their albums. Cosmo Lee over at Invisible Oranges said it best when he suggested "[m]aybe 2011 can be the Year of Actually Supporting the Bands Whose Music You Download."
What a thought.