SINGLE REVIEW: WITNESS – LOTUS (2016)

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cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance: ( noun) the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.
 The feeling of being happy but hating everything.  Searching for truth but only believing that which can’t be proven.  A good man who destroys his family.
The idea of being at odds with your own conscience. It is Lotus, the newest single from Roanoke, VA’s masters of nu-metalcore and downtempo madness.
   It’s been over a year since Witness dropped their debut EP, aptly titled Downcast.  Since then, Witness have gone through a huge makeover in both sound and lineup, coming in the form of losing one vocalist (leaving Robbie Alexander to fill some SERIOUS shoes), and new guitarist and drummer, Zach Carr and DJ Wright.
In the nearly two years of radio silence from Witness, the band has transformed into a new being- one no longer content with the cliches of heavy music. While Downcast was a solid debut, filled with heaps of depressive lyrics, dirty two-steps, and chugged rffs galore,  it was a stiff reminder that nu-metalcore was becoming stagnant. Don’t let that fool you, however, as Witness have taken all the intensity and raw misery of their debut and channeled it into something darker, angrier, groovier, and downright better.
As mentioned before, Witness has gone through a considerable lineup change. While the band’s debut was brought to life by the drumming of Aaron Crowder and guitar duties were solely held by guitarist Tim Rindorf, Crowder has since left and Rindorf has gained a new partner in his instrumental war. These two new additions come in the forms of guitarist Zach Carr and drummer DJ Wright. Where Rindorf’s playing on Downcast tracks like “Unkindness” and “Gravedance” were terrifying in their own right, his playing and writing have only improved. Rindorf and Carr weave a woeful web of self-hatred and anger with every last chug of their guitars. A welcome addition to the single is Carr’s excellent use of subtle, yet aggressive and still eerie leads, paired perfectly with Rindorf’s mammoth-weight chugging, slamming, and riffing.  Aiding these two in their quest to find the spot that hurts the most is bassist Nick Cooper, who’s bass tone this time around is somehow even more grimy and clanky, appearing boldly in the mix alongside Carr and Rindorf.  For every slash placed on the listener’s mental health by Rindorf’s grinding rhythms or Carr’s lacerating leads, Cooper is there to drive a blade directly into the wound.  His grooves and runs are in top form, as he slinks his way below the murk with enough heft to send the most mentally stable person alive into a fit of panic. Filling the void left by the intense and impassioned riffing is DJ Wright’s destructive, barbaric, and somehow exceptionally fluid drumming. From the first nore of the song all the way through the climactic (and honestly hate-inducing) breakdown, Wright slams and barges his way into the listener’s skull, leaving only a hollow shell in its wake. Not one for excessive flashiness, Wright gives an excellent taste of his refreshing playing style, being just weird enough to add that extra bit of atmosphere to the track.
Where the instrumental side of Lotus is rage in musical form, vocalist Robbie Alexander fills in the gaps with some of the most visceral and honest vocal performances in heavy music. As stated before, on their debut, Witness was a two-vocalist band, with Alexander being less of a true frrontman and more of a hype man with under-appreciated vocal talent. Since the departure of former co-vocalist Braedon Hayslett, Alexander has truly stepped up to the plate. Improving his range past the average-at-best cliche yelling that made Sworn In a household name, Alexander grunts, barks, and yelps his way through what I consider to be Witness’s best song, lyrically and instrumentally. Pairing lyrics of pure anger and cognitive dissonance with vocals that sound more pained with every word, Alexander has evolved into one of heavy music’s most distinctive and visceral frontmen.
Lotus is a raw, hateful, and bitter comeback single, made that much more intense by the history of the band for the last year. Fans of the band’s debut will certainly love the new direction, and new fans will have their minds totally and completely blown. From the gargantuan instrumental side to the emotionally bare vocal delivery, Witness have shown us who they really are and have left me begging for another taste.
Lotus is coming soon.
You treat me like a puppet.
10/10
FFO: Yuth Forever, Barrier, Desolate