'This is another new addition to ever increasing, ever more monumental Solitude Productions list of releases of high quality of Doom Metal and this depressing monster is about as heavy and as morbid as you get in the genre's of Traditional Doom and Death Doom. Ophis stand out among their label mates in as much as they more Traditional than most other bands on the label especially from the perspective of a Death/Doom hybrid. What you get here is 5 really long songs, all 10 to 15 minutes or more in length, all mostly very slow and extremely crushing but they do throw in some in unexpected tempo changes in when you least expect it. If you are looking for a reference point, then Centurians Ghost, Ahab, Skepticism meets the more Traditional sounds of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus would be the obvious statement to make. The concepts on "Withered Shades" seem to center around the doomed planet we live on and the ultimate demise of that entire human race. The subject has been dealt with many times before but Ophis descriptive writing style gets the point across better than most although you will need the lyric booklet to understand it as the vocals are done in the guttural style made famous in Doom Metal by Esoteric, Skepticism and Ahab.
Even though there is 5 tracks on the album, they really don't change much at all so going into detail about each piece seems pointless but there is some surprises along the way. First track "The Halls Of Sorrow" crawls along with the weight of a German tank, seething and extremely bleak for over 15 minutes but towards the end you get a tasty thrash/death metal section when you least expected it. Other times there is some more acoustically driven sections but for the most part, it is centered around one crushing riff after another but there is a underlying deathly melody to all of it. This is much darker, colder and more harsh sounding than their 2007 debut "Stream Of Misery" and these 5 tracks can put you in a trance-like state if you let it. If you like your Doom Metal to put across a feeling of sheer pain and anguish then "Withered Shades" will satisfy that craving and if Doom Metal is about some kind of emotional pull, then they succeed at doing that too. Stand out tracks are the opener "The Halls Of Sorrow" and "Necrotic Reflection" mainly due to more light and shade than the other three beasts on this disc but those tracks are great tracks in their own right also.
If there is a downside to the album, its a bit samey throughout most of its 64 minutes and the extended running times of each cut can test your love for Funeral Doom. The vocals could also be a sticking point for some listeners, i know from emails and comments i get regularly the deathly growling vocal approach is getting a bit predictable and tiresome for some folks out there but personally i dig the vocals despite the cliched approach. The production on the album is massive, thick and heavy. The songs contained some of the most hellish riffs recorded in recent years even though the band does sound more like something from the 90's than anything new coming out now. Its heavy, melodic in small doses with enough uniqueness to make "Withered Shades" stand out as a timeless recording in the genre. I have a feeling this will be one of those albums that will be regarded as a classic in years to come. "Ophis" is Greek for "snake" and which seems fitting for a band that plays like a snake moves, slithering, mysterious but can strike with real aggression when you are not ready for it.
A couple of points to be aware of, the artwork on the album is very much in the Black Metal vain with a pentagram and a inverted cross embedded in their logo but this has nothing to do with Satanic Metal at all, so that is a little misleading. That may seem like a trivial observation but some people might be put off by that, please don't be though because this is 100% Doom Metal pure and undiluted by any other musical influences apart from the odd tempo change. The line up of Philipp Kruppa - Vocals/Guitars, Jan Baum - Guitars, Oliver Kröplin - Bass and Nils Groth - Drums are accomplished musicians as this album shows. Lets hope we don't have to wait another 3 years for the next installment from this fine German band.'