For Fans Of
What’s great about this Wither EP is that we have frames of reference for the band’s that each member has been a part of. For those unaware, this Melbourne-based project is made up of guitarist/primary songwriter Jamie Marinos (ex-Sentinel), fellow guitarist Liam Fowler (Pridelands), drummer Luke Weber (Earth Caller, Pridelands fill-in), bassist Jeremy Hughes (Sanctify The Serpent, Taurus), and vocalist David De La Hoz (Belle Haven). Wither themselves likely won’t want these comparisons – rather wanting to be their own thing, which is fair enough – but that’s what I feel actually makes this release good. As you can plot out the differences against each member’s past work, gifting the output of this “super-group” with a voice and strength of its own in a way.
For instance, hearing David sing and scream in Belle Haven, and then going to Wither is a huge leap in his vocal aggression and the power behind his heavier deliveries. Just take that intensive pterodactyl-like scream at 1:48 on ‘Marionette’ that’ll fuckin’ end you. Or look to ‘White Noise‘ and how he contorts his voice lower than ever to chew you up and spit you out with some utterly monstrous growls. This is a side to the frontman people have rarely ever heard before, and that helps to make Wither’s work more distinctive. In so much of the music the vocalist been a part of over the years, we’re used to hearing David sing, and while he’s come a long way with his voice over the various Belle Haven releases, he forgoes his cleans here. Instead, he fittingly matches an angrier, grittier and heavier tone to perfectly pair up with this band’s uglier, violent hardcore/metalcore sound. I didn’t even know he had this style in him!
If you came for catchy vocal hooks and melodic lines a la Belle Haven or Pridelands, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed. Yet that’s what helps retain Wither as its own entity. It ain’t ground-breaking but I’ll be six feet under if it isn’t solid!
As for the band’s two guitarists, Liam and Jamie, their dynamic actually reminds of the guitar work from My Chemical Romance. No, wait, stay with me here! In MCR, Ray Toro was the lead player who loved his solo-heavy, flashy rock and heavy metal stuff. Whereas rhythm guitarist Frank Iero came from a noisier, highly-energized yet less-technical hardcore punk background. Which created an awesome dynamic and trade-off present in so much of that band’s material; the ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ material especially. With Wither, this same kind of complementary nature is also heard throughout these five songs: Liam dropping riff-heavy parts and hectic chugs, with Jamie complimenting his pal by mainly offering up techier, djentier prog-metal parts. All as both members utilise crisp guitar tones and some killer picking work too. Individually and in-tandem, the balance the duo strike is terrific, and it’s what makes the guitar work of these five songs stick out so much.
Luke and Jeremy’s bone-breaking rhythm section interplay is as weighty as all get-out; giving Wither’s music the pure, crunchy impact that it requires. Whether it be in those ludicrous breakdowns (and this band loves a good breakdown), the release’s smothering atmosphere, or just in the punch behind the production. Because goddamn, each of these five songs contains sections that’ll just hit you like a fucking freight train. Look, this whole thing is tighter than a crocodile’s jaw grip and twice as deadly. On top of that, for what is mostly a self-produced and self-mixed EP, ‘Rot and I‘ sounds pretty damn high-class, if I do say so myself.
I’ve seen the odd comment online that this EPs theme and artwork lends itself a horror movie quality. For much like any kind of conceptual narrative – music or otherwise – the story being told is often a metaphorical vehicle for something else to be exposed and expressed. And horror films are often fantastic conduits for metaphors going deeper than just gore, jump scares and monsters. (Well, some horror flicks, anyway). As some recent examples, It Follows was a commentary on the anxieties of modern sexual encounters; Hereditary and The Babadook dealt with how families express grief differently when one of their own passes and how mental illness plays into and develops from these traumas; and It Comes At Night (via some incredibly depressing and tense scenes) discusses how parents lose control of their children and even themselves when outsider influences pierce their own insular little bubbles.
In the case of ‘Rot and I’, this narrative focuses on protagonist ‘Tom’ and antagonist ‘Rot’; two beings existing together within the same human vessel. In short, it’s all an exaggeration of the demented feelings that surge when a relationship harrowingly ends, spewing forth all manner of dire thoughts. Going a little deeper, this ‘Jekyll vs. Hyde’ story about one’s own disharmony addresses how we can lose ourselves to our demons given the right prompts; how there can be inner struggles waging within ourselves; how we can all have these “rotten” parts take shape; and how some bloodstains can never be washed out, no matter how hard we try.
Lyrically, Wither’s debut EP is a pretty grim experience; full of bloodshed, self-loathing, mental tugs of war, murder, and even suicidal ideations. One thing that bolsters these themes is actually the short delivery method of this five-track EP, resulting in a neat and tidy narrative. With opener ‘Freak‘ being the intro, a three-arc narrative of sorts spanning across ‘Cast Out‘, ‘Marionette‘, and ‘White Noise‘, all before ‘Alone In The Snow‘ closes the EP and carries you off to the credits. Again, this being about a 16-minute listen gives the lyrical weight plenty of oomph; things aren’t blown out in length and it all feels absolute from start to end. So let’s get into the story.
Opener ‘Freak‘ is the admittance of Tom’s weakness, how he feels undeserving of love from a woman named Annabelle, and that there’s something darker within him stirring. This first song even states early on that the plot’s leading man thinks he’ll probably just “…fucking end it all one day, I swear/And I’m taking him [Rot] with me“. From the onset, there’s doubt and bleakness. ‘Cast Out‘ is where the real battle for control starts. Born from thinking and believing the worst will happen and from a deep-seated fear of rejection, our hero asks Rot to “get the fuck out” of his mind so that nothing can potentially ruin his current happiness. Yet he also shares to his inner monster that he’s quite scared, offering an “in” for the antagonist to eventually take over later. The EP’s standout,
‘Marionette‘, sees Tom’s worst fears realized as his love life ends abruptly, feeding his own depression and hatred, thus creating the perfect sequence of events for Rot to manifest and take the wheel. Tellingly, this track’s final lyric, “I won’t rest/Until your neck breaks” isn’t tonally fitting with the lyrically pleading mood of Tom up until that point, showing us that Rot has now reached the surface. You know how there’s always a freaky transformation scene in werewolf/monster films? Well, this song is the Wither musical equivalent of that. ‘White Noise‘ – easily the EP’s heaviest and most venomous track to represent the vile action during this part of the narraitve – shows that Tom’s metamorphosis from himself to Rot is complete and total. In this state, Rot murders Annabelle, cleans up the mess so that Tom doesn’t freak out (yet will still know what occurred), fits her into a car trunk before taking off to an old cabin – as per the release’s artwork.
In closer ‘Alone In The Snow‘, Rot has now gone quiet but the grave damage has already been dealt. What with Tom hiding out in a snow amidst this silent wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere due to the sin he/Rot have committed, and from the fear of what will happen to him now that he’s a murderer. With a mind full of suicide ideations, of wishing that “…the last sound I hear to be the snap of my neck“, Tom makes good on his word by taking his own life in order to enact some sense of justice. After the kick in of the chair and the tightening of a rope, the EP concludes with a final, eerie statement: “I am Tom, but Rot is my shame“.
‘Rot and I’ would not work as well as it does without its darkened conceptual spine holding everything together. It’s concise, brooding, heavy, well-written, and finely honed by some really talented musicians and individuals. It’s a conceptual EP that flows better with its own events and conflicting voices more than most prog-metal epics can ever hope to do. Of course, Wither aren’t anything new musically for the local heavy scene or abroad, yet they do it better than most. Carving out a fresh sound and creative expression for the five members themselves regarding their own respective works, and that’s great to see. If you’re looking to see how well some dark, brutal and obnoxiously heavy hardcore/metalcore can be pulled-off these days, ‘Rot and I’ is more than a fine enough example. It’s also a wild lyrical ride too, and that alone is more than worth the cost of entry.
- Cast Out
- White Noise
- Alone in the Snow
‘Rot and I’ is out now. Check out their debut single, ‘Nothing To No One’, over here.