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Woods of Belial runs a high risk of being known as the oddball side project of the Sorvali cousins, a tumour on the side of Moonsorrow. But whatever the genre of this little oddity might be, it's definitely not a sidekick of Moonsorrow. No, while Moonsorrow already had two full-lengths under its belt when Deimos XIII was released, it's a rather valid claim to say that the work on Woods of Belial was done before Moonsorrow's real breakthrough. This band is an entity of its own, and despite the shared creative resources with the better-known band of the Sorvalis, Woods of Belial is not to be considered an experimentation by established artists. No, it's an original piece of work, and so far removed from the other works of the brothers that the band should indeed be introduced to newbies without a bias-inducing mention of the other band.
The album is not an easy thing to listen to. The music is desolate, echoing, and heavily ambient industrial metal. Comparing the sound to other artists is difficult, but perhaps a simpler, more industrially oriented The Axis of Perdition without samplings could work, and of the less-known artists, the local Apocryphal Voice might be a closer comparison. In any case, the riffing and drumming are minimal, the keyboards ethereal, and the atmosphere dreamlike. The synths weave a layer of ambience and add some disturbing horror movie soundtrack on top of the whole. The industrially straightforward guitar and drum work combine with two layers of synths, and the production makes the whole sound detached; you are locked in a room in an abandoned industrial building, and whatever is producing the sound is in the assembly hall next to your little holding cell. You can hear everything that takes place, but there's a drywall between you and the source of the sound, and it damps down the individual instruments, the vocals and the lyrics. The result is a thick pulsating mattress of sound, leaking through the wall with the intention of smothering you, but still far enough to sound more ominous than actually threatening. The metal has been dipped into a vat of thick, viscous ambient coating, and the aggression has been covered with a blanket of minimalism, strange and scary emotions and distant alien sounds. There is anger on the bottom, but the whole has been turned into a muffled scream of pain by the ingenious production. The stuff of mechanical nightmares in the distance, in other words.
In a more concise form, this is industrial metal blended with a really hefty dose of very dark ambient.
The whole works on a single level: atmosphere. Individual instruments on this album never do anything noteworthy, and there are very few special spots worth mentioning on the 51 minutes of music. No, this is a piece of work that needs to be ingested as a holistic experience. It is a procession of strangeness, and as the oddity disappears into the ambience of the last track, the topmost memory of the album is simultaneously tempting and foreboding. It's hard to listen to, even harder to like, but it has a characteristic that makes you want to listen to it again. It's like a rewarding nightmare, an adrenaline rush you won't find in an amusement park, and an otherworldly experience that leaves much to be digested.
Forget everything you know about the musical portfolio of the Sorvalis, and listen to this if you enjoy industrial metal and dark ambient with a heavy crushing feeling. This album is not to be enjoyed, it's to be experienced. Recommended with a caveat to the reader.
Story of Woods Of Belial started back in 1995 when Blood and Wohi started to experiment, in order to create new kind of dark music - industrial black/doom - as they say themselves. With the help of Horned Black, "Baxabaxaxaxaxabaxaxaxaxa!666 Yndstr Draconis" was released (what a title!). Before this one, there was another, actually first demo "The Unholy Pentagram", but I don't have any information about it. Some time ago Woods Of Belial were in contract with Meat Hook and Trendies Productions, but both of these labels went out the business. In the summer of 2002, Woods Of Belial are getting activated again and finally recording their third album-demo. Firebox Records from Finland paid attention to them and gave them opportunity to promote themselves even more. This release, "Deimos XIII", features only five songs, but over 51 minute of total play time! Industrial black/doom metal can be indeed accepted as a description of their music. If you asked me to describe it in-depth, I would say that these guys are inspired by old-school black metal bands. Minimalistic compositions, slow and powerful riffs, mid-tempo drums are creating dark atmosphere. Maybe even too dark. Riffs are often repeated (in "Desolate" few of them are repeated over four minutes), which reminded me of Neurosis and Isis. But, Woods Of Belial are far from them, if we are talking quality-wise. "Halla" is the best song off the album with cool electro sounds, organs and scream vocals. Interesting mix of black metal (Bathory, Gorgoroth school) and super-slow doom metal. "The 13th Horror" is the sickest song, but then again - it's too boring. "Deimos XIII" does sound fresh, but far from the fact that this is good album. The idea is amazing, but this could be done much better. Listen to this if you are looking for something new, but don't expect too much...