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If Cascadian black metal keeps growing in popularity, Portlandia is going to need to do skit starring a Cascadian black metal band. The band will need to have some absurdly crunchy name. Perhaps "Woman is the Earth.” With a name like that they can even put on a show at In Other Words feminist at bookstore! Amazingly (or perhaps not so amazingly) that name is already taken. Yes, this South Dakota trio wins the award for the most clichéd name for a Cascadian black metal band ever. (There are no women in Woman is the Earth, if you were wondering.) It's kind of like when Marduk became obsessed with being the most extreme black metal band ever and delivered songs with golden names like "Christraping Black Metal" and "Fistfucking God's Planet.” But hey, those Marduk songs do achieve an unparalleled level of brutality for black metal, so let's not assume that a funny name excludes Woman is the Earth from accomplishing anything worthwhile.
This Place That Contains my Spirit, the group’s sophomore release, contains four massive compositions of moody and emotive black metal. As you might have guessed, Woman is the Earth’s biggest inspiration is Wolves in the Throne Room, especially circa Diadem of 12 Stars and Two Hunters. Whether by proxy or via direct influence there's also a lot of Weakling inspired passages as well. The songs have nonlinear structures, with no recurrence of passages or motifs. It would be a stretch to call this “Wolves in the Throne Room worship,” since the band doesn’t go so far as duplicating specific passages or riffs, but it’s certainly derivative.
Even if Woman is the Earth is treading a beaten path, at least the group knows its way through the forest. There are some truly captivating compositions on this album. While the opening track is a little underwhelming, the next three tracks are all strong. It’s beautiful watching how “Bird Song” unfolds from a tortured, melancholic opening into a series of fervent, heroic riffs. “Glow Beyond the Ridgeline” effectively uses passages of clean guitar and ambiance to build tension between expansive stretches of melancholic black metal.
This is a raw, lo-fi, recording. The production works well with the guitars, which have that classic black metal buzz-saw tone. The gruff howls lie pretty far in the backdrop, but are still effective as an eerie background element. However, the drums sound terrible. The flat bass drums smother the middle of the mix while the cymbals are totally unrefined; it sounds like someone was shaking a Ziploc bag full of silverware in the recording studio. The drummer might also just be bad, but it’s hard to reach a conclusion with a mix this poor.
Some people are good at blocking out one element of a soundscape. If you can ignore the drums, This Place That Contains my Spirit offers its share of quality riffs and compositions that create a damp, woodsy ambiance. However, a lot of people will find it impossible to ignore the horrid drum tone. Add to that the band’s derivative style and it’s hard to beat the drum too hard for Woman is the Earth. Still, this band has upside; the compositional sensibilities are strong enough that fans of Cascadian black metal should at least remember the name for the future reference. Not that you could forget it.
(Originally written for deafsparrow.com)
I have little experience in black metal as a whole, let alone the US scene. Besides Woman is the Earth I know only Wolves in the Throne room and Christ Beheaded but I'm not familiar with ether band, nor am I well versed in ether of their musical escapades. WITE is NOT like Wolves... as one might think, sure they may share the same intense interest for nature as WINTR and maybe they have taken some influence from them but it is minute at best. I like how the homemade digi pack sent by the band came tied with straw along with a small poster that was tucked away above the case in the envelope; it was something I did not expect from a self-release from the band themselves.
The music was another pleasant surprise, I had expected something much less than what was presented. The riffs here are great and all four songs presented here are full of them, much more than the production can handle at times. The riffs themselves are far more expressive than I had hopped; the atmosphere they project is uncanny and renders the keyboards useless. Quite a bit of the riffs featured here are trembo picked save a few spurts of black/thrash (around the 3:10 mark of 'Bird Song' an epic black Viking riff rears its head) and several instances of clean guitar (such as a brief moment on the title track). The prospect of long songs (10+) is usually a bit more than most can handle, mostly due to the fact that in the face of repetition most riffs fold after two or three times; but here the riffs never lose their effectiveness or become tired or boring they only thrive here.
However this is an album with several faults that impact the album rather negatively, the production is the elephant in the room when concerning this. It favors the guitars over the drums and vocals (whenever the drums try to speed up they become muffled and nearly impossible to hear; think the effect of the productions on Vital Remain's Forever Underground drums whenever they would perform a blast beat, but more universal) this does apply more to the first two songs rather than the final two, however the drums and vocals are still muffled slightly. The vocals are hit the worse, they are pushed to the very back and while this does not present a problem for their audibility; sense they are nothing more than screams and moans, if they were to do anything else they would be completely overtaken by the rest of the recording. The ambiance is another, it is spread across the four tracks sometimes in the middle, beginning or end depending on the composition. While it will occasionally go well with some clean guitar parts, their introducing the distorted rhythms renders the purpose of the ambiance useless.
All in all this was a fantastic experience despite any hindrances the production may have inflicted; the recordings presented here have met my expectations and exceeded them with incredible ease. This is most certainly one of the most atmospheric and incredible releases I had even had the fortune to hear. While I don't expect another from Woman is the Earth anytime soon (there is a three year discrepancy between their first full length and this one) I more then look forward to their next. Recommended to anyone who enjoys long song with eminence atmosphere, Wolves of the Throne Room fans may find something of interest here as well. Enjoy.