The wait is almost over, as Withered will be unleashing their sinister new album, “Grief Relic“, on May 27th via Season Of Mist. Throughout the band’s career, they’ve delivered some of the most intense metal in the scene, and they continue that trend with the new record. “Grief Relic” is, in my opinion, their best record to date, and for a longtime fan of this band as I am, those are huge words. This album is simply everything you’ve ever wanted from Withered, and much more. They say good things come to those who wait, and after a six year absence, these guys are about to release one of the best albums of 2016.
I recently got to chat with Mike Thompson about the new record, their recent lineup changes, and much more! Read what he had to say below, and do your life a favor by pre-ordering “Grief Relic” today!
Metal Mark: Mike, always a pleasure to hear from you. I guess the best way to open it up is to say welcome back!
Mike Thompson: Thanks man. It’s been a pain the ass to get here, but we’re here! (Laughs)
MM: That’s a great thing! As you’ve seen from the response to the new material, people are stoked to have you guys in the scene again, but I feel like you may be more excited than anyone?
MT: Totally man. Honestly, it’s two years later than we thought it would be, but things happen for a reason, and now we can finally release this music to everyone. We wrote most of it back in late 2012 to early 2013, so now that’s it coming out it’s kind of surreal, but very welcomed. I know a lot of people have brought up the “six years in the making” quote about the record, which I guess is kind of true in a way, but not really to us. We laugh about it, but it does add to the hype I guess. It’s been a minute for sure.
MM: It’s been way too long, but now you guys have a new lineup, and it sounds as strong as ever. How did Ethan and Colin come into the fold, and what did they bring to the table for you?
MT: Ethan actually reached out to me once he heard that Dylan left the band. He really wanted to be a part of it for a while. We did a lot with him and his old band, Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, because we were both on Prosthetic Records way back in the day, plus he rules. When he wanted to join, there was no way I was going to say no. When it comes to the his vocals and musicianship, he’s one of a kind, so I’m beyond happy to have him with us.
When Mike Longoria left the band, he left huge shoes to fill. As you know, he was an insane bass player, and a monster on stage, so we knew that whoever took over, had to be damn good. I actually tried to write bass lines for the new material, and quickly realized that this was not the right idea at all (laughs). So a light bulb went off in my head, and I asked Colin, since I’ve known him for a while, and was hoping for a miracle really. He’s not a “bassist for hire” ya know. He only does stuff that he’s into, so I sent him the demos, and he was way into it, so that was the perfect fit right there.
As for what they brought to the record, hell, I don’t know if I can put that into words. We had these songs for so long, and then once they added their talents, it became a whole new monster. I’ve heard these songs a thousand times by now, and it’s still fun to listen to, and they are definitely one of the main reasons for it. They came in and ruled like I wished, so I couldn’t ask for anything more.
MM: The record is definitely a cohesive monster. I’ve been following you guys for years now, and it’s one hell of a listen. It has the typical Withered stuff, but as you’ve done before, there are some twists and turns to keep the listener wanting more ya know. Was this the original direction the material was going, or was that due to the new members coming in?
MT: That’s definitely the direction that the album was heading in the first place. If you look at our discography, we make a pretty strong effort to incorporate a least one “newer” element somewhere on a record. We like to nerd out and try new things, depending on what we are listening to. Whether it’s grindcore, or death metal, or Nordic black metal, we like to try and incorporate everything we love into the record, because it gives you more options live, and it gives fans from whatever genre something to listen to. Plus, it’s just fucking fun for us. It allows you to connect with songs differently, and creates that distinctive mood that we’ve been after in our career as well.
MM: That’s what I’ve always loved about you guys. Even though there is so much happening on the record, they seem to flow perfectly, which is extremely hard to do. It seems like that’s been one of the most important things in Withered since day one.
MT: It definitely is. We are really into making albums. That’s what we grew up on, and that’s what we want to create. We put a great deal of importance on song arrangements, because we want the listener to enjoy it from the first note to the last. That’s how it should be.
When I was in high school I worshipped Kirk Hammett and Andreas Kisser. I was obsessed with the shredding, but once I started writing music for my own band, that kind of went away. I kind of got disenchanted with it, and put more importance on the song as a whole. I’m all for someone shredding my face off, but for our music, there’s more to it, so the importance of the song in it’s entirety became the number one thing for me. Once the song is good, then you go to the next, and the album comes together like that. We’ve done concept-ish records in the past, and with this one, we wanted to bring the listener on a journey again. We want that replay value that’s not as prevalent in the scene anymore. Nowadays it’s all about the singles, but we want fans to enjoy it from start to finish, and then hit play again, and I think we accomplished that. I would definitely say this is our most consistent record to date.
MM: You guys released “Husk” as the first single a few weeks ago, and have since released more, and I think you guys picked the right songs to give fans a preview of what to expect. A lot of bands just throw songs out there, for whatever reason, but the ones you chose really highlight what’s coming until they hear the whole thing.
MT: Good man, that’s what we wanted. It’s hard to choose one song to fully represent what we do. We aren’t really a band known for singles, and we never have been. We picked “Husk” first, because it represents the bulk of what happens on the record. It showcases the common elements you can expect for sure. After that came out I was like, alright “Distort, Engulf” has to be next, because it’s kind of a left turn from that one. It showcased the diversity on the record, and then “Feeble Gasp” is more of an epic song, so that showcased another shift in the direction of the music too. Honestly, it’s impossible to pick songs to capture what we’re doing (laughs). I’m glad you thought we chose the right ones, because I thought we did too. It’s not easy, but soon people will hear the full thing, and it will all make sense. The songs are great by themselves, but if people really give the record a good listen, it will hit them the right away, I believe. It’s a journey, like I said before, and I’m excited for people to hear it.
MM: So far so good, because the response to the singles have been amazing. For your personally, that’s got to be gratifying as hell?
MT: It is man. We started mixing this back in late 2014, and Colin couldn’t master it until last year, so it’s been a long time coming. Like I said before, I’ve probably listened to this album a thousand times, so to finally hear positive feedback is pretty awesome.
First off, we have to be happy with it, which is why I’ve listened to it so many times. We strive for quality, or our interpretation of quality, so once we have it, then we are happy. We have to play these songs live, and enjoy them every night, so we want them to sound right. You never know what the crowd is going to be like, so we have to at least make sure we’re having fun playing the music (laughs).
MM: On the upcoming tour with Inter Arma, are you focusing more on the new material or will it be a mix?
MT: It will be a mix for sure. We are doing one song from each of our previous records, and two from the new one. We would have done three, but “Realm of Suffering” is one of our favorites off the new record, but it’s also the longest song, so it only leaves so much time for everything else. We are playing one song off the last record that we’ve never played before, and fans will be happy about that.
MM: Which one?
MT: “Residue in the Void.”
MM: Oh shit.
MT: Yea (laughs). We had a previous member that was against playing it live, so we never did. It’s always been a favorite of ours and a lot of fans, so we relearned it, and will finally be playing it at upcoming shows. We are doing a lot of epic stuff on this run, so it’ll fit nicely. I’m just really excited about the whole set. It’s going to be massive.
MM: Nice man! Since some of the members are out of town for you guys, how will you approach the touring cycle for the record?
MT: We are going to tour as much possible (laughs). We have some guys here in town that will come in and play if Ethan or Colin aren’t available. We are really lucky in that respect. On the upcoming run, Rafay Nabeel will handling bass since Colin isn’t available. As you know, that dude just kills it on bass, so it’ll be awesome to have him on this run. Since Ethan isn’t available either, Raheem Amlani, who plays with Arcadea, will be handling his part. He actually engineered the whole record, so it worked out well. He loves the new material as much as we do, and he’s down for the tour, so it was a win win. Colin and Ethan are super busy with their projects, and we didn’t want to wait to tour, so we are lucky these guys are helping us out for this run. We are itching to play this stuff live man, so it’s going to be fun.
MM: I can’t wait to see you guys man. It’s been too long. For the last question, throughout all of the lineup changes, and everything else, you’ve continued to push on with Withered no matter what, which is awesome for fans like myself. What continues to drive you to this day?
MT: I’ll be honest man. It hasn’t been easy. When Mike and Dylan left the band, and we parted ways with Prosthetic, along with our rehearsal space going away, it felt like our whole infrastructure was falling apart over the course of two years. I really contemplated ending the band in 2013. It was burnt out, and with everything happening all at once, it was a lot to take on. Luckily, Beau wasn’t having it (laughs). Once we sat back down, and started jamming again, I realized that we had way too much material to just throw it away. As the first songs came to fruition, I could tell that we were onto something, and it was an absolute blast writing this record. I forgot how much fun writing music was for a minute I guess, but I quickly fell back in love while we were putting this album together. I quickly realized that I have a ton of riffs left in me, and as long as that’s the case, I’m going to keep doing it.
MM: That’s a good thing! Well congrats on this record man, because it’s the best I’ve heard from you guys, and I can’t wait to hear it live!
MT: Thanks Mark. We can’t wait to bring it live, and we’ll see you in Brooklyn. Enjoy the new record until then!