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Withered returns with the genre-melding 'Grief Relic'

Mike Thompson, Beau Brandon, Colin Marston, and Ethan McCarthy thread masochistic tremolo picking into blast-beat drumming and prog-tinged, dread-thickened riffs.

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Grief Relic (out May 27 via Season of Mist), the first album in six years from death-doom metal veterans Withered, opens with a low-pitched choke of breath before 40 minutes of gnashing, asphyxiating savagery. The quartet — Atlanta natives Mike Thompson (guitar-vocals) and Beau Brandon (drums), augmented by bass player Colin Marston (of Gorguts/Krallice), and vocalist-guitarist Ethan McCarthy (from Primitive Man) — threads masochistic tremolo picking into blast-beat drumming and prog-tinged, dread-thickened riffs. The melodic, albeit barbed hooks of 2010’s Dualitas have ceded to blackened, sodden, and brutish discord, but even at its most gutting lurch Grief Relic's intricate arrangements offer gasps of chiming consolation. The album doesn't dredge anything unrecognizable from the death-doom sludge, but it's a seamless, scorched effort of manic catharsis from an evolving, technically gifted band. ★★★★☆