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The first recording by Australian act Woods of Desolation is a raw affair with scratchy guitars and a basic production. It sounds primitive for the most part but there are aspects of the recording that suggest the musicians knew what technical effects were needed to give the whole work a particular ambience and feel. Parts of the demo can be amazingly clear and some songs are layered so that they pop out of the recording like 3-D cut-outs from a children's picture-book.
All the songs are short with none exceeding the 4-minute limit so it's possible to hear the whole album in one sitting (the whole thing is only 30 minutes long anyway) and experience it as a series of connected pieces musing on mortality, darkness, the closeness of death and what lies beyond, and experimenting with sound, mood and ambience. A clear narrative can be discerned in the music as it progresses from raw and very energetic punk-like rock-out to something more intropsective and quietly desolate in some of the later music. Early songs are very raw and tinny, and guitars have a very electric furry texture. The general mood is depressed with a dark urban blues feel. One song in particular, "Remains ...", even reminds me of my old favourite Finnish BM troupe Circle of Ouroborus with the dark spoken vocals, the general sound of the guitars and the bass, and the subject matter though the resemblance has to be coincidental.
"Suicide" introduces a strongly folk / country-flavoured acoustic guitar aspect and I sense that the band is in experimental mode here, exploring its chosen themes for all they're worth and the musical and atmospheric vistas opened up to the band. The following song suggests as much as it opens with a burst of noise and features some very odd tortured, rocks-in-the-throat gargly vocals. Some spoken word recordings and a melancholy blues ambient section are included.
The rest of the demo continues in a similar vein with a mix of despondent urban blues and noise-flecked melodic BM giving rise to some memorable riffs and rhythms, and some very emotionally devastating music. These guys have a knack for finding and playing quite distinctive and pop-friendly riffs and melodies. The atmosphere is despairing and bleak. The use of minor keys lends a stark lonely air to the set and presents the music's themes in a very final, definitive way. There is no escaping the monotony and hopelessness of modern life.
While the presentation may not be considered ideal - the drums sound paper-thin and lacking in robust substance - it does stress the raw stark quality of the music and throws weight onto the general ambience of the recording. The music's energy is prominent and the vocals aren't drowned out in competing with the instruments. I would go so far as to say the vocals are actually the most outstanding element of the music, though they're not very loud: they are quite varied and in several songs receive effects like reverb which treat them as very sinister and evil in intent. The spoken voice parts especially have an air of menace. In one of the last two songs, clear-voiced vocals can be heard and they are drained of all emotion and life, as though the protagonist has already passed into the realms of death.
This self-titled demo is a very strong introduction to Woods of Desolation: it has a distinct style with a definite ambience and some potential for experimentation with sound and use of effects that could be expanded on subsequent recordings. Individual songs capture moods that resonate very deeply with aspects of listeners' own experiences with depression, sorrow and meditating on the purpose of their lives. These moments are fleeting but they are enough. With music like this, who cares that the songs aren't at all polished?