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While many today claim they’ve been fans of WOY for a long time, I find no shame in admitting I just got to know some of their work. And yes, ‘tis mainly due to the recent passing of their leader, guitar player and vocalist, David Gold, on December 22nd last year that I finally got that chance. That day, as usually, I was going through the list of blogs I’m subscribed to, and quickly I realized in the majority of them there were mentions to the tragic event. A couple of them even had posted the video clip made for “I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery”, which I’d later on find out was track 4 in “The Green Album”. At that point I was eager to judge myself whether all the agitation was justified or just a typical reaction of everybodywasafanaftertheydie.
So, I watched with a particularly critic eye if you like, scrutinizing every single detail… or at least that was my effort. I must acknowledge it, at some point of these long song (around eight minutes if I remember well) I was hypnotized, and all my defenses were down. If there’s something I appreciate in any kind of music is that it takes you to the condition of not thinking anymore and simply enjoy what you’re listening to. I mean, that’s truly what all this shit is about, uh? It ain’t difficult at all to find tons and tons of intellectual releases, meaning those ones that need to be thought of, analyzed and even explained to actually be valued fairly, even amongst metal music. Know what I mean? You know, those ultra technical or complex or profound albums that have you thinking all the time. Well, after having listened to this record thoroughly, I can tell you this: “Woods 4” is not that kind of album. Not at all.
Oh dear, have I read negative critics on this one! Sadly, most criticism out there is based on the stupidity of categorization. How come? Somehow, these guys have been put in the corner of blackened doom metal, or even melodic black metal; now, there’s melody within all right, and I suppose you could find some hints of black metal, if you consider Agalloch to be so, but that is so not the freaken point! So what is it then? Who gives a fuck? Expect to find doom metal, not old school one, but very consistent shit. Something interesting is that musically, I can’t really give ya’reference for you to expect this or that sound in particular. These guys know their business when it comes to the subject of constructing their own style.
But what do I mean by consistent, right? Words can be cunningly used to say whatever we want? Sure, let’s see. First of all, may I say you won’t find vulgar and unimpressive displays of pointless musicianship here, au contraire, song writing is quite sharp in the sense that every single resource used is that exactly, one resource used, and not the only mothafuckin’ thing you’ll find along the whole record. Let’s say the keyboards for instance, which by the way, have become a standard to measure how much a band depends on cheap tricks to fill the gaps in their lousy compositions; well, keyboards here are elegantly and effectively played. An introduction melody here (always having everything to do with the main theme in the song given), a piano interlude there and that’s it. No need to over expose them. The same happens with guitars; guitar work is not only ‘bout riffing and riffing going nowhere, but again melodies, arpeggios and electric effects are all combined to provide a rich texture during all songs.
If we were to determine a weak point in the instrumentation, one could say bass lines are almost inaudible. Inaudible indeed for those like me who naively are looking forward to find counterpoints between guitars and bass, to listen to a singing bass, so to speak. Truth be told, there’s nothing like that here, bass is rather used just as a support for the slow dark riffs on the guitars, and that’s that. Drums are also just a support instrument here, except they’re quite present right on the surface of all that’s happening… just the way doom metal bands do it.
Another thing to be noticed is the vocal work. Being an instrumentalist of sorts, for years I managed to ignore vocalists, rather focusing on the musicality, the songwriting, etc. I found David’s efforts quite praiseworthy. A catchy and rich combination of clean and harsh vocals is to be found in most songs, as well as… yes, intelligent depressive lyrics. Quite enjoyable if you ask me.
By the time you read this, I will already be gone
Do not reply to this, but realize what you have done
By the time you read this, it will already be true
Do not reply to this, just understand what you made me do
The guy had some sort of obsession with guilt fo’sure.
All in all, I find Woods of Ypres’ “Woods 4: The Green Album” a most interesting work of modern doom metal (yes, I said modern, fuck off if you have a problem). It’s worth the expenses and multiple, multiple listenings. It also should pass as a big highlight for the genre.
—Originally written for www.globaldomination.se
Even months after his passing, the metal world still mourns the loss of Woods of Ypres founder and frontman David Gold. For a man whose work often revolved around death and sadness, it seems tragically ironic that he would be taken so relatively early in his life. I was not much of a fan of their sound the last time Woods toured through Vancouver, and- to my chagrin in retrospect- I did not see them live. Finally listening to Woods of Ypres' "Green Album", I'm now painfully aware of what the metal scene lost on Dec. 23, 2011. Distancing themselves from the black metal style they had developed on their first three records, "The Green Album" is an emotionally-heavy display of doom and grief, made even moreso by Gold's early passing.
I had the misconception that Woods of Ypres were some kind of Canadian Agalloch, and for the sake of their earlier material, that claim may have weight to it. In the case of "The Green Album" (and the posthumous "Grey Skies & Electric Light), Katatonia, Type O Negative, and My Dying Bride come to mind. The same grizzly atmosphere of their previous work is here, but it's conveyed through downtempo riffs and a much heavier presence of David's clean vocals than before. If anything, this evolution has made Woods of Ypre's music more depressive and bleak. Though David's deep-yet-melodic voice takes a couple of listens to grow, there's something about it that conveys incredible emotion. Comparisons can be drawn to a higher register Peter Steele (of Type O Negative), or lower register Jonas Renske (of Katatonia). Gold isn't a technically-proficient singer in any sense of the word, instead getting a warm, singer-songwriter approach across with his vocals. It's a little strange to have that style imposed overtop crushing doom riffs, but it works wonderfully.
The songwriting is memorable, but permanently clouded with melancholy and despair. The gloominess is taken to such a point where it may have even sounded cheesy, were it not for the unspoken seal of sincerity. "I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery" and "By The Time You Read This" are both examples of this, telling stories without a douse of light or humour to them. As the album progresses however, the music lightens up, if only a little. Gold himself admitted to the album getting more 'rocking' as it comes along. "Wet Leather" kicks up the tempo, and by "Natural Technologies", Woods of Ypres starts flirting with the realm of melodic death metal. Although the quality is relatively consistent throughout, "The Green Album"s 80 minute length could have used some culling, especially towards the latter half. The first side of the album is virtually perfect, but by the time "Mirror Reflection & The Hammer Reinvention" rolls around, there's a sense that Woods of Ypres could have conveyed the same amount of emotion without going so all-out. The second, 'rocking' half of the album isn't quite as impressive, but the closing track "Move On!" is as fitting an end to this album as I can imagine.
Woods of Ypres may not be around any longer, but I imagine that "The Green Album" will only gain reverence as the years go by. It may alienate the black metal purists, but the same atmosphere and longing is here, and as severe as ever. Tonight, I will drink to David Gold.
On December 23 I woke up at about 7:30am, I had my wisdom teeth pulled out on the 22nd and was still feeling a little bit groggy from the surgery. I stumbled out of bed turned on the coffee pot and slowly waddled over to the computer clad in nothing but a bath robe and a pare of AC/DC boxers. As part of my usual morning routine, I logged into Facebook to see what was new. To my surprise I was bombarded with a news feed filled with "Woods of Ypres" videos. None of the people who posted videos had even mentioned WOY before in passing conversation or shown any interest in "black" or "doom metal." After doing a quick Google search I discovered that the main song writer and musical contributor from "Woods of Ypres" and been killed in an unfortunate car accident.
My first encounter with the band "Woods of Ypres" was actually not that long ago when my so-called-friend invited me to their concert in a nearby town. Immediately after hearing that a "black metal" band was going to play a show I downloaded "The Green Album." To this day I consider this the worst metal album ever recorded. I had been aware of the bands existence for several years but never actually acquired the ambition to pursue their music. I had always assumed that they would sound like another "WITTR" or "Agalloch" (judging by their album covers and titles.) I do enjoy bands like Agalloch to a certain degree but I find the hipster black metal trend to be incredibly tiresome and the majority of bands seem to fail to achieve the melancholic/nostalgic atmosphere that second wave bands accidentally stumbled upon in the early ninties.
It's my most Doom oriented album, heaviest album that way emotionally, it's our least Black Metal album, but it was the only album that we could have written at that time and in that mindset. So it's interesting because the reviews are really mixed, I'll hear from somebody who absolutely thinks it's the worst thing ever and I'll hear from somebody who thinks it's their favorite album of all time, so it's nines and tens out of ten or it's zeroes and ones out of ten for people.
- David Gold
The first mistake people make when they review this album, or even listen to this album is that they expect to hear "Black Metal." David Gold had no interest in writing a "black metal" album, and there is nothing on this 78 minute album that even remotely resembles "Black Metal." After reading the above interview (which I will periodically quote throughout this review) I grasped a fuller understand of the goal David Gold was was trying to achieve with this release.
The first question I ask myself when listening to any musical release is; "what is the goal the artist was trying achieve with this release" and "were they successful in achieving this aforementioned goal." When it comes to music there are usually only four goals artists strive for, and most artists strive for all four to varying degrees:
1.) To sell records, for either mass appeal or a niche fan base. (Lady Gaga, Nile, Wintersun, Metallica)
2.) To express oneself through art, regardless of whether or not people will understand it. (Ulver, Burzum, Death)
3.) To sway the listener to conform to the opinions of the artist. (Stryper, Behemoth, Napalm Death)
4.) To produce something "fun to listen too." (Anthrax, Municipal Waist, New Darkthrone)
- The Reader should understand that none of the above musical goals are objectively wrong, they are legitimate musical goals. No disrespect is intended toward any of the Artists I mentioned and my interpretations are inherently flawed because it is impossible to know another persons ambitions.
Obviously, unless you are the artist, you do not know what was going through the artists head when they wrote an album. You can't know the thoughts, feelings, emotions or past experience that caused them to produce a piece of art. Despite that fact, it is often very easy to separate shallow attempts at gaining popularity with a pre-determined fan base; verses actually trying to produce art simply for art's sake. It is clear to me that David Gold was trying to produce legitimate art that most people will be able to relate to, I believe this is where he failed.
I started writing riffs again, not really sure what they were going to turn into or whether they were even going to be WOODS OF YPRES or not, but at the end of the day, I'd sit down with a guitar and I'd start putting things together.
- David Gold
If the above statement is true, it shows that David Gold started composing this album with the proper intentions. Many artists and bands begin writing an album with preconceived notion of what they want the album to sound like and sacrifice good ideas simply because they don't conform to the genre or style they slavishly attempt to replicate. The result of such musical endeavors almost always fall flat on their faces, due to their shear pointlessness; how can music move forward if musicians never challenge its accepted forms? The fact that David Gold actually wrote music for no other reason then the simple joy of writing music, shows a level of mature understanding that about 90% of metalheads will never achieve.
The first song begins simply enough with a clean guitar playing a simple chord progression, a violin joins in along with a piano. I understand that this is intended to put the listener into a state of melancholy and there is supposed to be some sort of atmosphere created by the music, yet none of it manages to touch me at an emotional level. It seems that "Woods" are trying to force an atmosphere that simply isn't there. The riffs are supposed to be "heavy and crushing." The clean parts are supposed to be "reflective and melancholic" yet both fail. The song isn't actually bad, it is simply mediocre, anticlimactic, and ultimately boring. The next four songs continue on in the same fashion with nearly identical vocal melodies and chord progressions that seem like only minor alterations of the previous songs.
By the time you make it the song "I was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery" you can predict when the vocals will join the music, when a riff will change and when "woods" will bust out another "obligatory atmospheric" clean part. The one area where this song differs from the previous three songs is how disjointed it is. Every time a boring, pointless clean part is injected into the music the distorted guitars have to let a chord ring out for at least two bars. This causes the song to feel like it should end three times before it finally collapses underneath its own monotonous girth. The album plods along in a similar fashion afterwards. The song "And I am Pinning (for you)" has some legitimately interesting riffs and a song structure that deviates from the basic formula employed on the previous five songs. Unfortunately the next song transcends mediocrity and embraces absolute failure.
I will take a break from my song specific tirade and use this time to talk about the vocals/lyrics. David Gold is a skilled vocalist with both harsh and clean vocals. His clean vocals are always in a lower register and sound very impassioned, unfortunately the lyrics don't measure up to the vocals. The lyrics aren't all stupid but the impassioned, concise, and clear vocals seem to highlight the stupidest moments and put them on display. Most of the songs are about failed relationships and sound like they were written by a fourteen year old "Bullet for my Valentine" fan. I think that David Gold was trying to branch out to a wider audience by writing lyrics that more people would be able to relate to in their mundane lives. The problem is that he wrote them in such an over specified manor that it leaves no room for you to put your own personal experience into the scenario David is trying to describe.
"Life is just pain and piss; it's nothing that I will miss" is the first line in the seventh song titled "Wet Leather" which is essentially a melodic death metal song in the vein of new "Dark Tranquility." The lyrics are so ridiculously stupid, yet I can't even laugh at this because I know how seriously this band took themselves with they released it. It truly is embarrassing. The next couple of songs sound like rehashed "Lamb of God" songs that LOG were too embarrassed to release. I do not know why these songs were included on the album, they are shitty songs (regardless of style) and they don't even come close to fitting the album's aesthetic. Seriously, what's the point?
There is no point in boring you by continuing on this arduous track by track review. I feel the need to bring up the song "Natural Technologies." I admit that I was lying earlier in my review when I said that this album has "nothing that even remotely resembles Black Metal." "Natural Technologies" actually comes remarkably close to being a black metal song, is the best song on the album and has lyrics that aren't absolutely retarded. The fact that this song is good actually makes the album worse because It prevents you from tossing the CD out of your car window just in case there is another good song on it, there isn't. The last song on the album is titled "Move on (The Woman Will Always Leave the Man)" the song is equal in stupidity with its title (I thought it was worth mentioning in case you were curious.)
This review isn't meant to piss off people that are mourning the loss of a contributor to the metal community. I am sad that David Gold died that that many people will remember him for creating this when he had to potential to release something much better. Before David Gold's death he recorded another album with "Woods of Ypres" and it will be released at the end of this month. I sincerely hope that David Gold's last musical endeavor will be a more successful one and that our last memory of his music will be a fond one. Rest in Peace.
Originally written for abloodredpath.blogspot.com
I had just discovered Woods of Ypres a couple of weeks ago and have been listening to them religiously ever since. They are quickly becoming one of my favourite bands. A lot of the reviews or comments I have read about this band are negative, which I find very strange. The main criticism that this band gets is about their lyrics. The lyrics especially on this album deal with a failing relationship(s). Personally I love it when black or doom metal bands are not afraid to show the more "soft" or "human" side of life in their lyrics. In my opinion, it shows more guts than just writing songs about hailing Satan or some anti-Christian, anti-human lyrics. The lyrics for me are a great highlight for this album. It is great for whenever I feel down and the lyrics really "hit home" with me and I feel like I really connect with the music.
The actual instruments are all recorded quite well and the bass is audible, so that is a plus. This album I feel has less black metal elements in it and more doom metal. The music is quite heavy, really making you bang your head to it a lot. The riffs are punishing and can create a sense of anger towards the failing relationship(s) that David Gold is singing about. The key word there is "singing." This album contains a lot of clean vocals, and personally I love the vocals. They are very deep and manly sounding but you can tell there is pain in them. The standard black metal growls are excellent as well. You can see where the Agalloch influences come from in some tracks such as the opener, "Shards of Love." The music on the album does vary considerably though. Some tracks are much more "folksy" such as "Shards of Love" while others are doomy like in "I was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery", and then finally quite surprisingly there are a couple really pissed off almost "death metal-ish" tracks such as "Wet Leather." So overall, this album you could say has quite a bit for everyone, and I would call it quite "accessible" considering that they are metal band. The vocals make it quite easy to listen to for people who might not like screaming and growling vocals too much. All in all though, there is still a good amount of screaming for metal fans, so you won't get tired of just clean singing. The album is very well balanced in my opinion and is a lot of fun to listen to. Highly Recommended.
Overall, this is an incredible album that I can listen to again and again. It is a nice breath of fresh air in a very similar and sometimes boring black metal scene.
Shards of Love
And I am Pining (For you) [my personal favourite, so much fun to sing along to]
Woods 4: The Green Album is a paean to the art of songwriting, a hymn to the almighty riff and a testament to the power of David Gold's voice. The album serves up a smoked metal beast dipped in a batter of doom and blackness. More morose than Katatonia in December and more uplifting than an F5 tornado, Woods 4 demands a front-to-back listen every time I spin it. Originally released in 2009 via Practical Art Records, Woods 4 is getting a much deserved re-issue from Earache.
Calling this music depressive would be an oversimplification. These songs are grim missives on life's inherent misery, but they are also charged with sardonic wit and an empowering poetic strength. Chugging dirges move towards crushing crescendo and lamentations explode into monumental, memorable riffs. You can feel your fists ball up and your head bang unbidden. Give Woods 4 a few listens, and you'll be singing along (albeit poorly, in my case). In the end, this is the sound of triumph, survival and rebirth.
David Gold's vocals are the key to Woods 4's brilliance. Frankly, he's a man's man; his deep, resonant voice will never make you cringe in embarrassment. Like a select pantheon of metal vocalists (Phil Anselmo and Peter Steele come to mind), David Gold can flat-out sing in the lower register. Not all the vocals are clean; there are quite a few passages of growled malevolence, occasionally layered under the singing to create a satisfying tension.
Woods 4 is built on mid-paced compositions, driven by a flawless rhythm section and a near perfect concoction of crunchy distortion. Traditional solos add melodic accents and evoke classic metal memories. Clean guitars are broken out in good measure, along with righteous piano passages and some innocuously executed cello and oboe.
The longest songs are bunched at the beginning of the album, offering a potential barrier to a cursory listen. Wade into and through these songs, and you'll be rewarded. Some of the more compact and concise tracks are the most impressive. “Wet Leather” is an infinitely memorable, thumping little ditty, letting us know that “life is just pain and piss, it's nothing that I will miss.” Slap that on a t-shirt, and I'll take two.
Starting with the agonizing sorrow that is “Shards of Love” and ending with the pulverizing cynicism of “Move On,” Woods 4 is a massive 78 minute journey of discovery. “And I am Pining (For You)” appears to be a simple lament of lost love. In truth it is the ultimate take-down, telling us that “What I thought was so unique about you must be common after all. I am constantly reminded of you, everywhere I go.” Nothing here is simple; nothing can be taken at face value. Grab the lyrics sheet, and ponder this on the tree of woe.
Woods 4 is an album to commune with and devour in the darkness. I've lived with it for the better part of a year, and it maintains every ounce of its power. Shockingly, each and every song is filled with memorable moments; there isn't an ounce of gristle to be found in the album's 16 tracks. Woods of Ypres have concocted an endlessly listenable metal experience; Woods 4 is a masterpiece to my ears.
Originally published here: http://www.metalinjection.net/reviews/cd-review-woods-ypres-woods-4-green-album
Canadian project Woods of Ypres is one of those bands that have been on the radar since 2002. It’s a band that we’ve all heard about in hushed tones for years; are they as good as the reviews they receive? Are they black metal, doom metal, experimental? Luckily we have the proof in our hands (and ears).
Woods of Ypres is a bit confusing as the press I’ve heard always has had them pegged in the black metal category (with avant garde flourishes). So it’s a bit confusing after hearing IV The Green Album. First impressions were this must be a Type O Negative/My Dying Bride/Candlemass tribute. It was for certain that no black metal was heard; other than the occasional death rasp vocal or tremolo guitar riff. So what exactly can we find here?
What we find is musically some of the most well played and composed music. That said, vocally and lyrically it all gets a bit monotonous. Vocals that we hear are layers of lush clean vocals intermixed with gravelly rasped guttural vocals too. Out of the sixteen (!) songs here three stand out above the rest: “By The Time You Read This (I Will Already Be Dead) is depressive metal with a perfect mix of clean and raspy vocals. The riffs are sludgy, heavy and perfect. “Don’t Open The Wounds/Skywide Armspread” is so musically beautiful and heartfelt it makes the rest of the cd bearable. To start it makes all these depressive lyrics believable, you can feel the emotion here, not plodding but inspiring. “Natural Technologies” is a change of direction fast, heavy and riffy. Blast beast, rough vocals and lots of passion, kissed with an amazing guitar solo.
For the rest of the song it’s a toss-up; very heavy on the Type O Negative influence (unfortunately without the self depreciating humor) and a bit tedious. There are moments of sweet acoustic guitars and somber piano movements and they certainly create a dour mood. Lyrically it falls into the gothically melancholic category (think Forgotten Tomb without the aching emptiness or My Dying Bride/Paradise Lost without the gothic settings.) It seems the somewhat popular opinion maybe this is genius, but it feels a bit regurgitated. It might be because of the monotonous vocals but at the end it could be because except for a few moments it really lacks passion. They hit it on a few songs but unfortunately it’s
originally posted at: www.musiquemachine.com
It takes a special kind of bad to literally be the worst album I've ever listened to. What makes this album so awful? It's the mere fact that Woods of Ypres don't seem to realize just how pitifully dreadful they are that makes this album absolutely unbearable to listen to. What's more surprising is that even a lot of well-versed metalheads don't seem to realize how awful they are, and eat this shit up like it's a rare commodity. To be fair though, music this bad IS a rare commodity. Perhaps it's the hilarity that keeps people coming back for more, but the reason I cannot enjoy an album like this for the hilarity is because of how seriously Woods of Ypres take themselves.
Where the actual instrumentation here is somewhat competent, the sheer self-indulgence and unforgivably bad lyrics (to the point where it is unbelievable) completely slaughter this album from the get-go. From the very first track Shards of Love (Hurt Forever), the mind-numbingly simplistic and shallow lyrics take the spotlight as the painfully generic clean guitars plod a few simple chords before the song becomes a generic doom "ballad" that has no real emotive power due to how childish and amateurish this song is put together. This is but an omen of what is to come, because not only does everything get one hundred times worse, they also get one hundred times more obnoxious to the point where it's just completely unavoidable and nothing can be salvaged from this absolute wreck.
Some self-indulgence when it comes to music is fine, but to the point where you've managed to make a 78 minute album of teenage poetry and bland instrumentation is completely unforgivable. Some of the tracks literally hurt to sit through, like the song Wet Leather with the most hilariously badly written lyrics ever conceived ("Life is just pain and piss, it's nothing that I will miss, life is just pain and piss, it's just... temporary"). This is now an inside joke between me and my friends. Really though, if I was to pick out all the individual ridiculous lyrics you'd probably decompose before being able to finish reading. It gets to the point towards the end of the album where the lyrics just make nearly no sense ("Women move on, Men move one, Women move on, Men move one" and so it goes) and just leave me in a state of confusion and exhaustion.
Any redeemable moment here is overshadowed by the fact that someone else has done it 10 times better. This would be okay, even somewhat enjoyable if it wasn't for everything else that makes this album a disaster. But when everything comes together as it goes in The Green Album, I don't think anyone does it worse than Woods of Ypres. The formula of getting instrumentation I should really enjoy and smothering it in a helping of the worst lyrics I've ever heard, delivered by a vocalist that is somehow able to sing all this with a straight face just absolutely makes this an embarrassment to everything I love about music. It's like someone took a picture of a band I really enjoy and photoshopped Justin Bieber into it, in musical form, which makes it feel like the album is slapping me in the face as I listen to it. It's so difficult to critically evaluate this album due to how juvenile it is, it's essentially like trying to mark a child's finger-painting by college standards. I could go into picking apart every individual aspect of this album but it would all be for nothing.
The Green Album is truly a marvel in itself - turning something that should be boring at the absolute worst and turning it into something that is literally impossible to listen to. I'd tell you to avoid this, but this album is intriguing in itself for the same reason the cult classic The Room by Tommy Wiseau is so elusive and infamous - it's truly an experience that no one could ever explain to you in a review, and where it is without a doubt the worst album I've ever listened to, there's just absolutely nothing quite like this.
But for those looking for a good album, avoid at any cost you can.
Bands with the melodic black metal tag tend to push me away, with bands such as Catamenia and Agathodaimon instantly coming to mind, and Woods of Ypres's fourth release, Woods 4: The Green Album had the similar effect. However, on the first listen of this album it seems that Woods of Ypres is hardly the conventional melodic black metal band at all.
Woods 4 opens with Shards of Love, with a melodic and melancholic guitar line backed by a wind instrument. As the distortion guitars play the first notes, Woods of Ypres brings to listeners their take on black metal, with heavy riffs and an atmosphere to match the music, moving at a doom metal pace. David Gold's clean vocals sound like a richer and more emotional version of Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, a nice complement to the sad lyrics on the songs on the album. The layering of clean vocals and growls present throughout the album, such as on Everything I Touch Turns to Gold certainly add a nice touch to the music, adding to the disparity already present and the heaviness in the listener's heart. Songs such as You are Here with Me test and display Gold's vocal prowess as he hits every note with ease, yet manages to maintain that emotional quality in his voice. The transition between melancholy and aggression on tracks such as By the Time You Read This are surprisingly smooth and not awkward, before the transition again to the next track, the piano introduction of I Was Buried Under Mount Pleasant Cemetery. It is also on songs such as this that the band proudly displays their black metal roots, with blasting drums, aggressive riffs and gruff black metal vocals towards the end of the track.
It is also interesting to see how Woods of Ypres is able to keep the listener engaged on tracks as long as 8 minutes, in the album that runs close to 1 hour and 20 minutes. The numerous transitions between the different styles present in the music certainly helps in making sure that things do not get too boring, and leaves new listeners to Woods of Ypres wondering what else the band has up their sleeve that can bring new surprises. The spoken vocals included on Dirty Window of Opportunity blends in well with the mood and the intended effect of highlighting the tension present in the song, before ending with a tasteful guitar solo. And I Am Pining For You also presents to listeners the faster paced side of the band, a break and a breath of fresh air compared to the initial slow and deathly pace that the band has travelled at thus far. The chorus vocals on songs such as this also remind listeners of "heroic" folk metal bands such as Turisas, and while such moments are few, the band utilises them to good effect whenever applicable. Wet Leather instantly brings to mind bands like The 69 Eyes with the rock 'n' roll style, but with a touch of black metal and the deep vocals of gold, reminding listeners that "life is just pain and piss, and everything is a scam..." A surprising tune with upbeat tempo for a song with lyrics as depressing and hopeless as such, yet Woods of Ypres manages to pull this off without any hint of awkwardness. The album finally ends with a small hint of light at the end of this dark tunnel that has been Woods 4, with sound advice from the band: Move On!
Looking at the song titles on this album though, it is easy to recognise Woods of Ypres' music to be bordering on depressive-suicidal black metal, with titles such as Suicide Cargoload (Drag that Weight!) and I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, among the 16 tracks present on the album. Somehow on music with clean vocals, I feel compelled to check out the lyrics, and it certainly gets interesting at times, with the exceedingly depressive and bordering-on-morbid lyrical themes.
Woods of Ypres' latest effort sounds like a cross breed between heavy, doom and black metal and is sure to alienate fans of particular genres. However, the ingenuity presented on this album will compel curious listeners of crossover genres to keep coming back for more. This is depressive metal done right. This is the kind of album that puts bands like Katatonia to shame.
You will hear Woods of Ypres being described as melodic black metal, or as doom metal, or even summery black metal. The truth is, black metal is always growing, reaching its cold roots out into diverse soils and leaving the barest seeds of its original identity to grow into all manner of environments. Woods of Ypres have capitalized on the metal world’s growing affinity for depressive black metal, taking an organic, seasonal image in place of the wintry desolation of many contemporaries. With that basis, they take their pace and aesthetic from romantic doom metal, with a heavier emphasis on clean singing than rasps. They are, at least for the moment, unique.
The Green Album is their fourth effort, its title being the least implicit indication of their hippy status thus far, and its runtime being only just within the limits of a compact disc at one hour and eighteen minutes, divided into sixteen songs. And there is the first major draw and major problem with Woods of Ypres; the ridiculous scale on which they create their albums. Not content to pen a few songs like ‘And I Am Pining (For You)’ reaching past eight minutes, Woods frame each of these epics with an array of songs between two and five minutes long. Far from breaking the album’s continuity, the varying length of the songs aids the intentionally “organic” flow of the album. Naturally, however, I am initially suspicious of albums much longer than maybe about fifty minutes, and admittedly had some tracks been cut this opus would have packed a more powerful punch. Like a colossal, ancient tree, The Green Album is difficult to take in all at once, and although stepping back you might marvel at its overall impressiveness, a closer inspection inevitably reveals some dead wood.
Musically, the band is doing what they have been doing since Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth, and are engaged in a slow progression. A frequent feature is the symphonies, pianos and violins that have always framed and shored up the metallic side of Woods of Ypres, along with melancholy, thoughtful clean and acoustic guitars. The driving force of each song is increasingly David Gold’s cavernous baritone voice. The music cleaves unbelievably well to the vocals, ‘Dirty Window of Opportunity’ featuring a number of pace changes that Gold seems to be manipulating with his voice rather than singing over, almost as if the band is following him rather than playing independently. This song also features a very tasty guitar solo that sounds as if it could have come off a Chris Rea album, before a thunderous blackened finish. The band haven’t forgotten where they come from; they just have a clearer idea of where they are headed. Guitarist Bryan Belleau has increasingly adopted a doom-metal style of playing, using rounded, often plaintive slow riffs and, along with Gold, chugging sections during verses, with a decrease in the melodic, slightly blackened leads used for the band’s first two albums. Drummer Evan Madden follows all this with a typical enough selection of heavy, simplistic beats, while his bro-bro Shane doesn’t get much of a look in. I count Woods of Ypres among those bands to whom the intended sound and overall aesthetic, rather than the individual utilization of band members; since it works well to their ends, they cannot really be blamed for this.
Amidst the cohesive union of black metal and melodic doom they have developed for three albums prior to this, Woods throw a couple of curveballs. Unexpectedly, a catchier, rocky vibe surfaces in a couple of the songs. ‘Wet Leather’ features a Danzig-like guitar pattern in the verse, with Gold sounding more Billy Idol in the repetitive chorus. With nearly eighty minutes of record to play with, the band obviously felt free to mess around a bit, although for the record someone ought to tell them we don’t need another black’n’roll band just yet. ‘Natural Technologies’ is a blastbeat-driven glimpse of the black metal origins of Woods, while ‘Halves and Quarters’ features an almost traditional sounding doom riff to open, with deeper and hoarser than usual growls from Gold. At less than three minutes in length the track seems unnecessary; introducing new elements to the album’s sound without working them into a longer song. Doing the latter would have created a more accomplished sound; although it all works well together when listening to the whole thing, especially when it’s joined up by such a charming little acoustic piece as ‘You Are Here With Me’, the album’s solidarity begins to loosen a little in its middle section as a result. Along with the smirking, cigarette-smoking outro, the tracks ‘Mirror Reflection & The Hammer Reinvention’ and ‘To Long Life, in the Limbo Union’ aid an excellent finish, however, with everything coming together in two songs that could have been recorded for any of the bands’ albums.
The lyrics are another make or break point for the album and the band as a whole. Woods ground their storytelling very much in the real world, foregoing the mythical trappings of their various genres in an attempt to connect on a very direct level with the listener. On one level, this works very well in making Gold an everyman, a relatable figure, but the idea becomes slightly rueful when the lyrics are literally just describing conversations line by line, as in ‘Shards of Love.’ Due to David Gold’s lucid, coherent method of singing, almost every lyric is completely audible, and therefore the lyrics have a far more weighty effect on the enjoyment taken from the music – so if you don’t like hearing about breakups and such, this will probably piss you off. There is nothing poetic or profound about the lyrics; Gold merely describes everyday situations where people’s relationships with each other and with themselves begin to fall apart.
This is potentially a very divisive album amongst Woods of Ypres’ catalogue and amongst the citizens of the darkened city that is black metal. Whether the band even retain enough of the genre to be labeled black metal is likely a matter of individual interpretation. Considered outside of genre conventions however, The Green Album is a strong showing considering its length. While it is not as engrossing as their debut, songs like ‘Shards of Love’, ‘I Was Buried In Mount Pleasant Cemetery’ and ‘Mirror Reflection & The Hammer Reinvention’ combine traits from across the face of depressive metal to create some of 2009’s most emotive and engaging music. A strong start and finish compensate enough for the faltering middle enough that I will be listening to this a whole lot during the closing months of 2009. Despite its sprawling size denting its quality in places, The Green Album’s strength lies in being representative of the band that recorded it, rather than any genre it might have been spawned by.