With Dualitas, Withered invite us on a meditative journey towards our internal void. The liner notes are prefaced with an essay that extols the virtue of insight meditation and asks us to “question the most fundamental elements of perception.” Dualitas guides us on this path via a sonic journey into the subterranean cavities of our minds. The album is a celebration of molten tones and cavernous resonance. With a painstaking focus on songwriting, Withered have crystallized their amalgam of sludge, black metal and deathly doom into obsidian perfection.
“Extinguished With The Weary” rages out of the gate with the force of a percussion drill, showering us with shattered rock as it spins down into the earth. Dylan Kilgore and Mike Thompson share guitar and vocal duties, spitting excoriating missives over mordant distortion. Mike Longoria's bass rotates around the music like a flailing downhole hammer, sporting a satisfying buzz throughout. The song slows through a section of sludgy sediment, giving us a first taste of the melodic atmospherics that will punctuate our journey.
“Reside In The Void” echoes up from a dripping grotto, crawling along with a melancholic lead over crisp, clean guitars. We stumble through unlit capillaries, accompanied by a pulsating bit of bass before the song digs into a dissonant wall of sludge. Beau Brandon's gorgeous drumming drives us on into the darkness, and we're joined by dueling guttural vocals. Then the drill flips back on, and we're sprinting through blackness, chased by superlative rhythmic bombardment.
Dualitas bores like a buzzsaw into our brain's bedrock but pauses consistently to allow moments of discovery in the caverns of our psyche. Frankly, I think the ambient interludes are extraordinary and go a long way towards making Dualitas transcendent. Phillip Cope's meticulous production gives ample space to the instruments, avoiding any claustrophobic compression.
Withered ask a lot as they usher us on this meditative path, and in lesser hands, the undertaking would reek of new-aged cheese. Thankfully, Dualitas doesn't shrink from the traditional darkness of death/black metal imagery. After the lyrics of each song, the band offer an exegesis of the words, explaining how they pertain to our goal. To make progress towards enlightenment we must look deeply into our human nature, focusing even on the unsavory elements we find therein. “From Shadows” deals with “our despicable potentials and darkest intentions.” “The Progenitor's Grasp” fights back against “the hold that antiquated spirituality has on all of us.” Withered hope you can follow this road and find “the smallest and darkest point in the very center of your mind.” The further you burrow into this singularity, “the farther you will be from the boundaries of reality and your internal void can reach magnificent proportions of emptiness.”
Dualitas actually gains momentum towards its end. “From Shadows” is one of the strongest tracks on the album, featuring a distorted dissonance that purrs like an engine. Its confluence of blazing grooves and memorable riffs recalls the delectable flavor of a Ludicra song. “Aethereal Breath” features the most stunning bit of melancholy on the album. Incredible drums dance around a clean riff before the guitars hammer out an avalanche of melody and rage.
In the end, Dualitas is what you make of it. The album might help you achieve a deep meditative state or grasp new conceptual revelations. It might simply present a fascinating listening experience. Either way, it's worth your time.
Withered are currently out on Danzig's Blackest of the Black tour. At the end of November they meet up for a run with Skeletonwitch and Landmine Marathon.
Full disclosure: Prosthetic provided me with a promo download, but I went out and bought a copy of the album.