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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)