The Norwegian band Withem was founded when guitarist Øyvind Voldmo Larsen and keyboardist Ketil Ronold met drummer Frank Nordeng Røe. Shortly afterwards these three musicians recruited Ole Aleksander Wagenius, a singer with an impressive voice. For the recordings of their debut album The Point Of You they got some help on the bass guitar from Andreas Blomqvist (Seventh Wonder), but meanwhile they found bass player Miguel Pereira to play with them live on stage. Their musical heritage comes from bands like their compatriots of Pagan's Mind and Circus Maximus as well as the American prog metal bands Symphony X and Dream Theater. Withem blended these influences to play a solid kind of theatrical prog metal together with some elements of symphonic prog and power metal.
The title track of the album opens with a Dream Theater related passage, but when the vocals set in this resemblance swiftly disappears. In the higher regions of Wagenius's voice I noticed the influence of Pagan's Mind, but also a singer like Andi Deris (Helloween) crossed my mind. Point Of You is a strong opening piece with a perfect progressive bass line and impressive vocals. The combination of the guitar and keyboard is an added value to this song. A nice riff leads to Miracle, a fine composition with high-pitched vocals and sublime double bass drums. Concerning the vocals, this song clearly has an early nineties touch. It's a bit more power metal, but still with a beautiful keyboard solo followed by a short guitar break.
This style continues on Phrenesis. A strong instrumental part leads to intense vocals. Musically the similarities with Pagan's Mind are obvious, but in a way Withem use these influences to change this into a style of their own. During the first three songs I got the feeling that the compositions tend to have a pre-indicated musical path that has to be followed, but Burned By Senses differs by the intense vocals and the brilliant guitar riffs. The middle-section contains a solid guitar and keyboard duel followed by a relaxed vocal part of which I think it should have been used more often. Next is Mr. Miruz on which the bass of Andreas Blomqvist has a perfect sound. Listening to this composition I noticed the wide range of Wagenius's voice. I like his lower voice better since it evokes a sort of peaceful feeling. The influences of Seventh Wonder are clearly noticeable, which is meant to be a compliment.
Born To Live is a kind of happy song. It tends more towards melodic rock in the vein of TNT, another Norwegian band. Fortunately a strong guitar solo compensates the pop-like vocals. In my opinion this is one of the weaker tracks on the album. However, the next piece The Paramount Of Lies put things right. It's a progressive epic piece with a bombastic opening, which slightly shifts to a heavy guitar part. The heaviness nicely contrasts with the tranquil vocals, thus creating a special atmosphere. A very accessible composition is Driven By A Blessing, which has a great double bass drum sound and several changes in tempo. This is exactly how a true progressive metal composition should sound. The high-pitched vocals sometimes reminded me of Steve Perry (Journey): high and sharp as a razor. Why Me? is the final composition and a real winner with a stunning intro including a brilliant bass part leading to an intense vocal part and followed by solo spots of keyboards and guitar. Sadly this song fades out.
Withem have proven to be a band that can easily compete with all the other bands in the genre. The musicians excel on their instruments and with Ole Aleksander Wagenius they have an outstanding singer who has the ability to lift the band to the premier league of prog metal bands. Generally the compositions are strong, but I think a song like Born To Live doesn't suit the album, which means a rating slightly less than five stars. In spite of that The Point Of You is a brilliant debut album ready to conquer the prog metal scene.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?