(Escapist Records)

Metal and blustery winter nights go together like icy lawn chairs, a five-buck brown booze and packet of Swiss Miss. Together they get blood flowing back into frozen fists.

Winnipeg five-piece Withdrawal has been churning out a slurry mix of frosty thrash and grind since 2008. Their scattered discography adds up to a series of blasphemously titled demos, EPs, splits and albums. Everything raw, everything guts.

Much of what makes their latest, Never such a solid record, worthy of delving into is the band’s focus on their best groove: dismal gothic subject matter laid over tight, well-crafted thrash metal that finds its roots in Celtic Frost. The band’s instrumentation is well arranged; while the production isn’t exactly glossy, the band has clearly made clarity and quality an objective. They manage to remain furious and grim, as evidenced by my favorite track, “Book Of Death” while not casting their lot to charred slop.

Most of the songwriting orients around breakneck speed but Withdrawal does go down tempo a couple of times, first on the spaced out, psychedelic, “Tracing Fingers Over Imperfections” which comes half way through the album and is a terrific song. They also slip off on the last track, “From Stone To Air, From Bone To Air” which at just under six minutes is the longest, most conceptually challenging on the album. It’s a competent experiment, proves that the band is given to a wandering now and then which seems appropriate, considering the intense subject matter they cover lyrically.

Overall though, the strength of Never is its muscle, brisk tracks like “Illusion Surrounds Us” and “Forever (Final)” thriving on confrontation. Anymore, back to basics thrash vocals feel a bit trite, the gut wrenching meaning behind Adam’s existential menace lost to a sense of been there, done that but its hard to deny that he’s got a great voice. And it’s awesome that he’s not huffing up and growling throughout his songs.

Withdrawal’s whole discography is pretty damn good and this is a solid collection of thrash, the kind of uncompromised songwriting you can sooth your aching fists on.

Purchase Never here.


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