Witherfall, Sanctuary Singer Joseph Michael Picks 5 Best Prog-Metal Albums | Revolver

Witherfall, Sanctuary Singer Joseph Michael Picks 5 Best Prog-Metal Albums

King Diamond, Savatage and more
witherfall-joseph-michael-by-stephanie-cabral-web-crop.jpg, Stephanie Cabral
photograph by Stephanie Cabral

Revolver has teamed with Witherfall for an exclusive "Tempest Frost" variant of their upcoming third LP, Curse of Autumn. Quantities are limited to 200 worldwide — so order yours now!

Since Witherfall emerged out of Los Angeles with their 2017 debut Nocturnes and Requiems, the band has become a rising force in the dark, melodic progressive-metal scene. Which makes sense, considering the group features an all-star cast of players that are also members of Sanctuary, Iced Earth and more. Witherfall up the ante on their third and latest album, Curse of Autumn (due March 5, 2021), thanks to a production assist by Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth, Demons & Wizards) who teamed with Witherfall vocalist Joseph Michael and guitarist Jake Dreyer for the recording. The band's ambition isn't restricted to their soaring, virtuosic songs either — it also extends through the entirety of their artistic output.

"We want everything we do in Witherfall to be its own piece of art," says Michael. "The paintings are commissioned by us and therefore serve a symbolic purpose. Our merchandise also has equal importance to us. We're not a slap-on-a-logo type band. We want to put stuff out into the world that we would want. … We put out sheet music, we've released our own wine, called Tempest Red Blend, and we spend a lot of time on the packaging of our albums."

Witherfall have clearly spent a lot of time crafting a holistic, progressive vision for their band. In that spirit, we caught up with Michael, who also fronts long-running power-thrashers Sanctuary, to talk about the boundary-pushing prog-metal albums that most inspire his own creativity.

King Diamond - Conspiracy

Dark and melodic, King Diamond really hit peak songwriting here. The band is perfect and [drummer] Mikkey Dee weaves in and out of strange meter changes, while the guitar work of Andy LaRocque and Pete Blakk is just stunning. Listen to the various scene changes of "Sleepless Nights" and you'll see why this is progressive metal at its finest.

Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor

Obviously, I'm a fan of Warrel Dane [Sanctuary's late founding vocalist] and his shape-shifting vocal approach. But the underappreciated magic in this is the interplay between Jeff Loomis, Jim Sheppard and drummer Van Williams. Listen to the orchestration on "Sentient 6." The guitars remind me a little of Randy Rhoads, outlining a very Romantic-era-sounding chord progression.

Savatage - Dead Winter Dead

This album featuring Zach Stevens on vocals really grabbed ahold of me during my formative years. My use of vocal rounds and counterpoint lines would not have developed if I had not heard songs like "Not What You See." Savatage are responsible for merging metal and Broadway and we should all be thankful to them for that.

Dream Theater - Awake

I know that [singer] James Labrie gets a lot of hate from fans and enemies of this band but I would suggest listening to this album. Labrie is so on point on songs like "Scarred" and "II. Voices." I still use this as practice pieces today before I hit the road. The song "Scarred" is easily my favorite, having first heard it on [KROCK DJ] JRRBLE's progressive show "The Sound and the Fury" during my formative years … Between John Myung's amazing bass intro and the unbelievable section that leads into John Petrucci's guitar solo, showcasing some of the tightest alternate picking I have ever heard … This is pre–Pro Tools, so no quantizing 32nd notes here — just chops.

Megadeth - Rust in Peace

You're probably wondering what business this thrash record has being included in this list of progressive albums. Perhaps your definition of progressive isn't the same as mine. Progressive doesn't mean dopey obscure lyrics about your sisters' turtle … Progressive means that the artist takes musical chances and is not afraid to step out of the boundaries that define their primary genre. The insane tempo and time-shifts alone would mark this album for any musos alone, but the insane exotic melodic adventures that are Marty Friedman's guitar solos make this a must listen for any music fan that like their food well-seasoned.