Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Woe - Withdrawal - 1

Review by Justin C.

Design by Justin Miller

If my iTunes play count is any indication, then I loved Woe's last album, Quietly, Undramatically, with something approaching obsession. At the time, I thought Woe had some of the best black metal going, U.S. or otherwise, and their new album, Withdrawal, has done nothing to change my mind about that.

Photo by Casey Carlton.

Withdrawal finds the band taking the primal, in-your-face black metal of Chris Grigg's one-man-band days on A Spell for the Death of Man and mixing it with the compositional complexity of Quietly, Undramatically. Woe writes songs that have honest-to-goodness movements in them, much like classical music pieces. (I take classical guitar lessons, and I think it's telling that they've been my go-to band for the ride home from those.) "Song of My Undoing" is a perfect example. It starts with a raunchy, punk guitar riff and the lyrics, "When I was young, I believed that I'd be complete and one day I would see that life is beautiful," but this is no simple, three-minute punk song about lost innocence. The song twists and turns through relatively slow sections with mournful, cleanly sung vocals, and bouts of complete viciousness with screeched declarations like, "The sum of virtue is rot." I count at least three distinct movements in the song before it winds its way back to the main riff, only to mutate again into another whirlwind of black metal goodness to wrap the track up.

As if the epic song structures weren't enough, the album is filled with little touches that set it apart from any garden-variety black metal release. "Carried by Waves to Remorseless Shores of the Truth" is a furious storm from the outset, and the lyric, "Eyes are wide with fear and clothes are soaked from terror," is a pretty good description of what listening to this song is like. But the push-and-pull syncopated sections and a tasty guitar solo take what could be an exhausting blast of sound from a lesser band and make it compelling. Or take the slight pause in the middle of "Ceaseless Jaws," where everything stops and a variation of the main theme is played alone with minimal distortion, just to remind you that this maelstrom all hangs together because of well-crafted melodies.

Photo by Casey Carlton.

All of the musicians are at the top of their game here, but Grigg's black metal howls sound even more vicious than previously, if that's even possible. They're also complemented by bassist Grzesiek Czapla, whose deeper howls add another dimension to the music. He's not just a back up vocalist, either. Czapla takes on full verses, and he and Grigg trade lines in "All Bridges Burned" as if it were some kind of demented duet.

If you're at all interested in how far black metal can be pushed without losing any of its ferocity, you'd be well advised to check this album out.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

7 comments:

  1. This really is something. Carried by Waves... wow.

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    1. I've been holding off listening to much to the album because of this little "release day party" we're having. But holy crap, Carried by Waves just rips!

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  2. So, how many plays exactly, JC?

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    1. Last time I checked, it was in the high 50s for the first few tracks. That probably isn't too ridiculous in absolute terms, but given the amount of music I listen to and the fact that the album isn't that old....

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    2. Yeah, that's quite a few if you're actively listening to stuff to review and whatnot. I haven't been doing that as much this year (little has grabbed me like in 2011-12).

      My high water mark is 400+ for BBTS' "Heart of Darkness".

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  3. Replies
    1. Yes! And thanks for reading Olivier.

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