WITHERING SOUL "The Last Shall Be First"
By Dr. Abner Mality
The Windy City is well known as a hub of great underground metal. Some bands get the spotlight more brightly than others. Well, it is time to turn that spotlight on WITHERING SOUL. This melodic black/death metal powerhouse has been putting out top notch material for 20 years, but they do it on their own time, without outside pressure to adhere to a timetable. So when a new WITHERING SOUL album comes flying out of the abyss, you can be sure it’s a quality effort and not something squeezed out just to have “product” on the market.
The latest platter from these gentlemen is “Last Contact” and as expected, it’s a real barn-burner, managing to merge brutality, mood, melody and darkness in equal measure, without any one aspect overwhelming the other. They are an underserved resource so it’s time for Dr. Mality to bring them to Wormwood Laboratories for dissection. My subject in this case is guitarist/keyboardist Christopher...
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings to WITHERING SOULl! Can you take us back to the conception of the band and how it came to be? Were members in any prior bands?
CHRISTOPHER: The band was started by Mykil (former vocalist) and I as a side project initially. We had both played in a few bands, but nothing substantial. We put out a few demos and started recruiting members and it became fulltime. Our current drummer, Rick, played in BLOOD OF THE WOLF and GOD DEMENTIA. Our other guitarist, Wilder, has another band named TENEBRISM and our bassist, Joel, played in ADUANTEN from Austin, TX.
WC: There’s a sizable gap between the previous WITHERING SOUL album and “Last Contact”. Was it a case of “real life” getting in the way or just being very meticulous about what you release?
C: Combination of both (good question!) We got really busy with live shows following the release of “Adverse Portrait” and started tracking “Last Contact” in the summer of 2018. We finished recording all of the instruments over the span of a year. At that time we ran into some delays with getting the vocals recorded. After Covid had settled down, we sort of hit a brick wall and found ourselves in the same exact situation as we had been a year before. It was eventually decided that the only way to finish the album and move forward would be with a new vocalist. It wasn't an easy decision, but just felt like the right one. After enough practice, I took over vocals.
WC: I’ve seen the band’s music described as blackened death metal, melodic death metal, atmospheric black metal, etc., etc. Is there a particular description you think fits or are all labels meaningless to you?
C: I wouldn't say meaningless, since listeners are always going to try to relate your music to something they're familiar with. While our style does have elements of the terms that you mentioned, it has also evolved since our early days as a 'dark metal' band. That being said, the dark undertone still remains present. I think having multiple taglines is a good thing and is what makes a band interesting. I just prefer to let someone else figure those out. Ha ha...
WC: “Last Contact” deals with communication from the dead. Is it a tightly woven concept album or is it more like a loose theme running through all the songs?
C: It's more of an anthology of various stories, but with a consistent theme running throughout. The artwork and title were inspired by the movie “Event Horizon” and the idea that there could be undiscovered relics where life once existed only to reveal something sinister. “Allegory of the Void” touches on that topic from an existential point of view and that we really only have a limited understanding of what we see in the night sky. “Carrion Reflection” was loosely based on the book “A Picture of Dorian Gray”. “Into the Harrowing Expanse” is about the story of an infamous ship called The Octavious that attempted to traverse the Northwest passage and went missing for 14 years until being discovered with its passengers literally frozen in place.
WC: Have you ever experienced any sort of supernatural contact with the dead yourselves?
C: I wish I did have some spine tingling stories that I could share with you, but no, nothing personally. I get all my inspiration from fiction and other people's experiences.
WC: Is there one song on the album that’s your favorite, that seems to sum up your whole philosophy?
C: I personally like the lyrics in “Of Blackened Pillars”. The song is loosely based on the various witch hunts of the 1600's, but also about standing up to adversity and not following an idea just because it's popular.
WC: “Last Contact” has a pretty cool cover image. Tell us more about how this came to be and how it relates to the album’s themes.
C: Thanks! I had the idea of a mysterious figure appearing to deliver a message. A beacon if you will. We commissioned the very talented artist Pierre Alain D to illustrate our concept and couldn't be happier with the result.
WC: The Covid pandemic has affected a lot of bands, both in the real life sense and in terms of their music. Did it have an affect on the songs on “Last Contact” or on you personally?
C: Not so much for this album, as I already had the songs written and recorded, but I definitely had time to get a head start on the next album. I also spent a lot of time around nature and worked on some lead guitar techniques.
WC: Are there any authors or films that you draw lyrical inspiration from?
C: Besides the ones already mentioned, I've written lyrics based off of stories by Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King. I've always enjoyed Tim Burton's adaptation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. It had such an eerie atmosphere during course of the film.
WC: Does the band have any influences outside what fans would expect...i.e., any non-metal influences?
C: I'm a huge BIRTHDAY MASSACRE fan. I recently discovered DRAB MAJESTY also and can't stop listening to them. Sometimes I listen to Nintendo game soundtracks. Depends on my mood.
WC: You are from Chicago, one of the better metal cities in the US. How would you describe the metal scene there currently? Have they been supportive of WITHERING SOUL?
C: Abundant. Before the pandemic, there was seemingly always something happening on multiple nights a week. Death metal has always been a Chicago staple and seems to be growing in popularity these days. WITHERING SOUL was always the one odd band (ha ha) but the response has been mostly positive. We've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with a diverse range of bands.
WC: Do you have any live plans?
C: We have an official album release show at Cobra Lounge on September 24th here in Chicago with MORTA SKULD and DISMALIMERENCE. Other than that, we have a few other events in the works.
WC: Any newer bands that you could recommend to us?
C: OSSILEGIUM (Chicago, IL), VALDRIN (Cincinnati, OH), PREZIR (Milwaukee, WI) and SUFFERING HOUR (Minneapolis, MN) to name a few.
WC: If you could have dinner with any three people from history, who would they be?
C: Vlad Dracul, Steven Hawking and Arnold Schwarzenegger
WC: Has Withering Soul ever experienced a “Spinal Tap” moment where things went haywire that you could share with us?
C: We've had a few equipment blunders over the years. The craziest story though, probably involves myself. We had all of our equipment stored in a venue's basement prior to our set. In a frenzied rush, I bent down to grab some of my drummer's toms and didn't notice the exposed heating duct just above my head. As luck would have it, the side of my head scraped against one of its jagged edges and the next thing I know, my hair is soaked in blood. After enough time applying a bandage, the wound eventually clotted up and I managed to play the show. As soon as we finished, I drove straight to the hospital to get my head stapled. (That was a "warrior" moment!--Dr M)
WC: Any last messages for the fans?
C: Thank you all for your continued support! Some of our best work is on its way.