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When most people think Canada and black metal, there isn’t much to choose from. For most people there’s the nasty, raw, and violent bestial/war-styled innovators from BC, Blasphemy, but that’s pretty much this country’s only claim to fame for that genre. That is, until David Gold of Toronto showed up in the early 2000s with several bands, including Woods of Ypres, and gave Ontario our own band to put forward.
Woods of Ypres’ “North Ontarian” take on the genre managed to get a decent amount of attention with the release of the debut EP Against the Seasons, which then helped catapult the first LP, Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth in 2004. By mixing modern black metal with the melancholic, melodic death/doom metal in the vein of Katatonia and then taking the equally gloomy, acoustic guitar-infused cues from Oregon black/folk metallers Agalloch, Woods of Ypres found themselves with a record that was not only cold, bleak, and grim but also melodic, catchy, and soulful.
Although I’d say this album is rooted in a modern black metal style (that being the quickly picked, high treble-toned, foreboding guitar riffs with screeched and snarled vocals that evoke a cold and ominous atmosphere), there are also a lot of melodic doom riffs, whose slow, brooding gloom helps give the music a heavier yet melancholic calmness to it. These are then intertwined with equally depressing acoustic guitar melodies that help give the music some contrast (most songs are opened with some sort of acoustic guitar bit) as well as some room for more serene emotional performances. The use of synths and pianos also gives the songwritting a very diverse and mature feel.The lyrics mostly dwell in areas that fit with the music, such as depression, adversity, gloom, etc. There is plenty of other black metal-orientated subject matter, such as winter and nature (mostly forestry and other North Ontarian scenery), but the album doesn’t really step into the pagan or anti-religion territories.
In the end, this is a great record to start off on and it really pulls those who are interested in the many genres here. Although the band has gotten some flak for the apparently juvenile lyric writing of Woods IV: The Green Album, which has somewhat expanded into a sheepish hate for everything the band has done, despite the lack of any particularly object weaknesses here. Either way I think the lyrics of IV was a mild misstep and anybody denying themselves this album is only doing themselves a disfavour. Unfortunately, in late 2011 David Gold was struck and killed by a van in Barrie, Ontario. His last album, Woods 5, was completed and released this February, but despite the new WOY material at my fingers, the tragic loss for Canadian black metal and black metal in general still stings just as much. I don’t think he had enough time to realize his full abilities as a songwriter, but considering what is left and the fan base that was made, I think Woods of Ypres will go down in underground metal history forever.
Best tracks: The Looming of Dust in the Dark/The Will to Give, The Sun was in my Eyes pt1, Shedding the Deadwood, Dragged Across the Forest Floor, End of August
First off I would like to say this is one of the saddest days in metal this year, such a talented artist gone just like that. My condolences go out to his family, friends, and all the fans of Woods of Ypres (WofY). He was killed in a car accident late on the night of December 22, 2011, the beginning of Yule, at that.
This was the first bit of music I heard by WofY. I really only started listening to them about two months ago, but I instantly connected with their music. The lyrics are more of a “soft side” dealing with failed or past relationships, but this is what makes this band so great. They are not afraid to challenge the limits of “black metal.” Musically, everything is played very well, the production is good, and in several you can hear the bass quite well. WofY clearly gets influences from Agalloch, which they show in several songs with beautiful acoustic/folk parts. There is plenty of usage of clean vocals, and David Gold’s voice is absolutely wonderful, deep and brooding but VERY manly. That’s not to say there are no black metal vocals because there are plenty, and a great example of that would be the song “Dragged across a Forest Floor” which is in my opinion WofY’s best “full black metal” song. The last four songs really connect with me, especially the last three due to the lyrics.
This band really changed my view on black metal/doom metal. The lyrics were so touching; I was able to relate so much to them. I felt like I was living them. This is truly a very sad day for Canadian Metal. WofY’s new album is due out in February, this will be interesting. I will miss David Gold. All I can say is thank you.
“The good die too young.”
R.I.P. David Gold (1980-Dec. 22 2011) Age 31
I never thought a melodic black/doom band with the occasional acoustic sections could ever inspire such fervent, unrestrained hate in me. Normally inoffensive black-ish stuff rolls off my back, indeed, back when I was at uni Agalloch and Alcest were my main studying music. It’s hard to make this melodic, spit-shine sort of music amazing or life changing but it’s hard to really make it annoying and irritating, yet somehow Woods of Ypres drive me up the wall.
It’s a combination of a few things, I guess; the music is pretty bad, yes, the vocals subpar but not truly reprehensible (I kind of like the clean vocals, actually), surprisingly enough I think it’s the lyrics that really give me the shits, which is strange because I normally think I can get past the lyrics. Here they’re just truly awful, though. "Summer’s Envy" rolls along sounding like some atmospheric modern rock, some acoustic sections, some grungy type riffs; hardly black/doom but not particularly offensive until these guys start singing stuff like "In the daytime/when everyone can see/you look so good/being cruel to me". Admittedly, that’s not entirely representive of most of the lyrical content, most of it’s more poorly written and way, way more pretentious ("A Will to Give" being another good example).
The pretentious-ness, the sheer poetic-suburban-teenager-ness of the whole thing is just impossible to get past. I can hear you say "Come on Caspian, surely this is a bit much? You listen to plenty of pretentious music, how is this any worse?" Most likely it’s a combination that these guys have lots of lyrics, the lyrics are all clearly audible, the music is abysmal and come on, not even Godspeed! You Black Emperor would be condescending enough to put a bit of spoken word (with delay!) at the end of a track saying "There is no destination, there is only the journey".
Seriously though, while the lyrics are horrible and worthy of their own review, the music is painfully average. Woods of Ypres mix together a few musical elements and efficiently combine the worst of all of them; there’s some pointless acoustic sections ripped from Ulver and made a whole lot simpler and stupider, some of those rocky sections ripped from Brave Murder Day with a whole lot of bland and irritation mixed in, and a few heavier, faster sections, full of unimaginative riffing and some of the poorest attempts at blast beats you’ve ever heard. The growled vocals are horrible but I find the clean vocals kind of endearing, actually; they’re whiny and not particularly good but they sound earnest and heartfelt, like if it was a dude with some development problems honestly trying to express himself. It’s hard to hate retarded kids; it’s hard to hate the singer for Woods of Ypres.
If this was instrumental it’d probably get 30% or so. "A poor Agalloch ripoff" would be the review title. As it stands though the vocalists shit on the record with some truly sub standard performances and even worse lyrical efforts. Damn, this has to be the most annoying record I’ve ever heard. Avoid at all costs.
After reading the previous reviews and mixed messages, I couldn't really guess what this band might sound like. Summer Black metal, What the fuck could this possibly sound like.
I was half expecting a Solefald or Avantgarde like sound. After a listen to this, my first Woods of Ypres album, my opinion quickly changed. This is an awesome example of Melodic wind swept black metal.
The vocals are clear and nothing short of breathtakingly arranged. The harsh vocals are very Black metal while the clean vocals are more ethereal and show obvious influence from such names as Vintersorg and ICS Vortex (though, as not to confuse you, don't expect another ...And Oceans, they have the vocals style but not the musical ferocity as Epic Black metal)
Arrangements are good though nothing technical really. As stated earlier chords aren't brutal or fast or anything. This is long melodic type metal. The fact that the bands integrity is breached by the alternative influence means nothing when you listen to the album itself.
The second track is a good opener for an album and the concept of the "summer despair" shines through. Though I may not agree with such lyrical themes as Depression this band uses it quite nicely.
The third and fourth songs are integral and center on the Sun and metaphors. These songs are probably my favorite on the album and is definitely one of the defining characteristics of the album. Fast and slow parts with use of keyboards and mixed vocals.
The rest of the album is a steady reverberation of this song structure. It is a good album and should be viewed unbiased by listeners who read the other reviews or even mine.
Best Tracks: The Sun was in My eyes parts I & II
Yet another band hailing from Ontario, Canada. Along with such acts as Wolven Ancestry, Will of the Ancients, (Check out "The Order of the Wolf", a consortium of Canadian Black Metal Bands) Woods of Ypres also deserve to be a well credited band. After their first release, am EP containing 5 songs, all members of the band quit except for David Gold. While Mr. Gold did drums on the EP, this time around he is also handling the guitars and main songwriting.
While the sound may have a lot of similarities with the EP, it also has many differences. The album has many more acoustic passages a la Agalloch, and more of a 'doom' like sound. Though these differences, the album's main sound is still 'melodic black metal.' The songs are usually composed of power chord riffs similar to Ulver, tremolo picking, acoustic guitars, clean and harsh vocals. To not forget the 'doomy-ness' of the album, there are many mid paced heavy chords used. Not the very slow chords that such doom bands like My Dying Bride use, but more like the doomy rhythm guitars on Amorphis' - Tales From The Thousand Lakes. All of these techniques are usually used in each song, which spares the songs from getting old. Some examples are 'The Will to Give' and 'The Sun Was In My Eyes Part Doom', which starts off with acoustic guitars, then comes crushing in with the doom guitars, returns back to acoustic passages, only to come blasting back in with the tremolo picked guitars and harsh vocals.
The two main vocals types used on the album are the harsh black metal vocals, and clean. Clean vocals are used a lot on this album, though there seems to be a well balance between the two types, as both are commonly used in each song. The lyrics are chiefly about loneliness and solitude, though they are used in metaphors with nature and other things.
In concluding this is a very pleasant release from a very promising band. I am eagarly awaiting their up coming release.
I'll openly admit it. Black metal is a genre I am not well versed in. As with much of metal's extreme side, I have not really paid much attention to either black metal. Aside from the likes of My Dying Bride, same goes for doom metal really. So why would I want to check out Woods of Ypres, a melodic black and doom metal band, you ask? Well, I haven't really got a good reason, but it's a reason none the less. Woods of Ypres hails from my hometown, and since I'm not aware of virtually anybody from where I used to live, this band a source of pride, or something silly like that. Anyways, the band's first demo, astronomically titled Against the Seasons: Cold Winter Songs From the Dead Summer Heat, turned out to be a very worthy investment, so I decided to check out their debut album, Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth. Once again, I was madly impressed with what I heard. I enjoyed it probably even more so than the demo.
Like their demo, Woods of Ypres' debut album is a very sombre effort. The band has been compared with Agalloch in the past, and this comparison is quite fitting, I must say. The atmospheric doom metal makes up a large portion of the band's music. Whereas Against the Seasons was full on black metal, Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth puts a lot more emphasis on slow acoustics and clean vocals than the traditional black metal sound. But luckily for listeners, this change in musical direction does not hurt the band 's efforts. Often times, the tempo of the relatively calm music mixed with the soothing, likeable clean vocals of David Gold (who also took over vocals and guitars in the recording of the album), produces a depressing, yet at the same time, uplifting sound which is a treat to listen to. But that isn't to say that the entirety of Pursuit of the Sun is an acoustic album. The nine minute epic, Dragged Across a Forest Floor, spends plenty of runtime making use of the band's traditional sound, harsh vocals, distorted guitars and all. Woods of Ypres manages to work their trade very well, and never really fail to impress.
Needless to say, the music here is very well constructed. David Gold is quite the talented songwriter. Many of the tracks have incredibly long runtimes, ( five exceed the 6 minute mark, and one approaches it), and though one might assume that slow, doom influenced music might plod on at a dreary pace for much longer than it should, surprisingly, they don't. In reality the long, winding passages flow extremely well, with few, if any unnecessary sections. For each second of sombre sounding tracks such as The Sun Was in my Eyes Part Doom, is quite vital to the enjoyment. But unlike some of their contemporaries who have longer songs, Woods of Ypres' music is very easy to pay attention to, and to be honest, it is quite difficult to miss out on any moment of the band's delivery. This is a good thing, by the way.
Woods of Ypres is currently working on their second album. If it's anywhere near as good as Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the earth, then the band should have yet another winner in their hands. Their first two releases show that the band has a ton of potential, and if this album is anything to go by, then Woods of Ypres should go on to have a very successful career in the black metal field. Their haunting, yet comforting melodies are very interesting, and very inspiring. The band's music never seems to lose its lustre and remains fresh even after countless listens. And quite importantly, the hour long CD never feels over blown, never turns into a snore fest, despite the slow pondering riffs and melodies, and calm vocal efforts of David. Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth is a superb album, and is definitely worth looking into if you are a fan of black metal or doom metal.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)
I think that a lot of the the negative reviews of this album stem from its label as "Black Metal". I agree--this label is not entirely fitting for Woods of Ypres (or rather, the album "Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth"); it is easy to see why one would be disappointed expecting something else. Woods of Ypres reminds me very much of Agalloch and I wonder, had this album been labeled "Folk Metal", which Agalloch is labeled, would it have been reviewed more positively? Maybe this band deserves a new label of its own. Metal is constantly evolving and new sub-genres are always being defined and created. But that aside, when one ignores the arbitrary label, this is a great album.
One of the most prominent aspects of the album is the prose and themes of the song lyrics and how the vocalists employ them. First, the album title itself immediately caught my attention; it is a very intriguing name, one that immediately brought imagery to mind. The imagery that the lyrics and atmosphere of the album fulfilled what I had in mind. One of the most interesting songs, lyric-wise (and in other ways), is the song "The Will to Give". It is varied in its verses and many of them contain sort of "moral" lessons (Woods of Ypres' lyrics do not preach, and I did not intend to imply that through the statement. I mean that whereas one finds many metal songs dealing with tragedy, the lyrics of this band too discuss tragedy, but it is taken a step further in that it is given closure, a resolution). As I mentioned, the lyrics are employed nicely by the vocalists, from traditional harsh metal vocals to layered and clean vocals, which all nicely fit what is being sung. Again drawing from the song "The Will to Give", the verse which I feel is very powerful alone (in a written sense) is sung in an equally powerful way (the verse of which I speak begins with "I vow from this day forward ..").
The album is comprised of about half acoustic and half distorted guitar work. Again I am reminded of Agalloch, which is not bad. I am disappointed that there are no real solos on this album, where Agalloch has many (and are very good). The rhythm riffs that are present, though, are solid and varied. I think that the more serious metalheads (as in, those who prefer genres like traditional Black Metal and so forth) might grow tired of the acoustic work, though.
The basswork and female vocals of the album deserve a good mention here. The bass is not droned out as it is in a lot of metal, yet is not overpowering and annoying (as some in some metal it can too be). The female vocals in songs such as "Outro: The End of August" are very hauntingly beautiful.
I am very excited to see what Woods of Ypres will release next. I do hope, though, that the next album contains more songs like "Dragged Across A Forest Floor", which was one of the heaviest songs (and doesn't contain any clean vocals or acoustic guitars) and "The Will to Give", while still retaining a few like the softer and more acoustic songs. That would be a better balance. This balance is best displayed in the Outro song, "The of August" that starts off soft and acoustic, but then features distorted guitars and harsh vocals.
Overall it is a great album, one that is strong enough to overlook the short comings.
... and a lot to bash.
I'll start mentioning the fact that acoustic guitars overcome this "metal" album, which is funny considering its even labeled as Black metal.
And to screw up even more, they are either poorly produced, or bad played. I mean, you can clearly hear the screeches of the guitar's fretboard, specially on track # 7, to the point it can hurt your ears (if listening with headphones).
Well, now that I vented my frustration, let me start a proper review.
This album is supposed to reflect summer as a season of agony, instead of the happiness it's usually associated to. And it succeeds on that, but as summer itself, this album can get very annoying.
With this same purpose, I guess, the guitars (both acoustic and electric) are given a warm, dry, and tedious sound. They are overly simplistic though, I can easily count the number of memorable riffs with one hand.
And the solos or leads, you ask ? well, there aren't any. Except maybe in tracks # 4 and # 6, where a small lead takes part into the song.
The riffing, as I said, is pretty weak. If we don't have an acoustic guitar playing lullaby melodies, we will most likely get some tremolo riffing, or some more effective power chord riffs.
Next, the vocals. Depending on the occasion, clean or raspy vocals are present (and in some parts, both of them).
The clean vocals can be anywhere from emotive, to lifeless and agonizing. Again, depending on the ocassion.
And the growly ones are quite decent as well, you can easily understand what he's saying.
All in all, the vocal section is not that bad, it just can get annoying on the agony parts.
Back into the acoustic guitars issue, about 4 or 5 songs are made out almost entirely of them, and the rest of the songs have a couple minutes of acoustic guitars as well.
The songwriting is quite weak too, the songs have no real structure and are just kept together by the vocals. This wouldn't be so bad if the songs weren't so damn long (most of them are around 5-8 minutes).
After all, this album is not that bad, and it surely proves to be an enjoyable listen from time to time. But if you listen to it often it will most likely bore you.
Also the lyrics are very cool, but good lyrics are useless without good music to back them up.
"The Will to Give", "The Sun Was In My Eyes" (both parts), and "Dragged Across a Forest Floor".
I'll get right to the point: a pretty decent chunk of this album literally sounds like modern mainstream rock music, not too far removed from what you might hear the radio, save for somewhat lengthy running times for each individual track (on the order of seven or eight minutes, mostly). It reminds of the kind of thing that got played on MTV a lot a little over a decade ago, even down to the vocals; I keep thinking: Alice in Chains with folky acoustic guitars (and for no obvious reason, a lot of harsh vocals), though someone who’s more familiar with that sort of thing could probably name better comparisons. There are also a lot of “black metal” parts, along the lines of bands like Agalloch or Ulver, but those bands are heavily influenced by rock music themselves, and they make up a minority of the album anyway. This is black metal-influenced rock music, not the other way around.
It’s baffling to me that somehow we’ve gotten to the point that a band like this can be marketed as daring or original or somehow a creative leader. It’s a funny love/hate relationship some people have with metal: most of the people who buy this album would never even have been aware of it if not for the rather spare black metal elements and the fact that the band is signed to a label attached to the “metal scene”. A few minutes of screaming and tremolo guitar and suddenly what would otherwise be alternative rock magically turns into unique avant-garde black metal that only very open-minded people could ever appreciate.
Of course drawing in influences from rock and other mainstream music is a common card for pretentious metal bands to play. It makes their music more palatable to the casual listener and plays up an association to “respectable” music that will appeal to listeners embarrassed by metal’s beer-and-pentagrams image. Artistic conceits are relegated to the lyrics or unusual instrumentation or lengthy track running times rather than disturbing the perfect blandness of the composition itself. Keep all the depth right on the surface, where no one can possibly miss it.
You might say that it’s an attempt to civilize metal. In effect, it eliminates anything remotely unique or interesting about metal and replaces it with the same sort of music that you could find anywhere else – the sort of music I came to the underground to get away from in the first place.
There’s nothing new about any of that, but Woods of Ypres are really raising (or lowering) the bar for how tame and pedestrian “black metal” can be. The first time I heard this band I cracked up. Listen to to the song Allure of the Earth for instance - I've yet to hear anything so conventional-sounding passed off as underground music. How can anyone call this “melodic black metal” with a straight face? Without even getting into the merits of the music, the label just doesn't make any sense at all.
With all that in mind, here’s the real truth of this album: the reason this band is in the underground isn’t because they’re too artistic for the radio, or because they’re going over the mainstream audience’s heads or anything like that. If that were the case, bands like Nirvana and Tool would be hopeless obscurantists known only to obsessive record collectors. Fact is, you can walk into your local Wal-Mart and conveniently pick up an album not entirely unlike this one, featuring better singing and better production, with less self-important lyrics, released about ten years earlier. That won't make you feel unique and special for supporting an obscure and misunderstood band, but I imagine the music would be a lot better.
It’s a rare occasion these days where you know that within the first moments of an album you are about to experience something special.
With that said P.O.T.S & A.O.T.E is definitely the most compelling album I’ve heard in a while, maybe ever. The concept certainly should be enough to peak your interest “summer black metal”, now before you start thinking about sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows (you were just singing that weren’t you, it’s ok to admit it), It’s quite the contrary, Gold has found a whole new way to look at summer and it’s quite ingenious.
The lyrics are the star of this show, the most profound I’ve heard in some time and there isn’t a line on this record that doesn’t stir the mind. As well as being so thought provoking they paint a picture, and touch on experiences everyone of us has had, allowing a rich tapestry of images to flow through your mind as you listen.
At the core the music is highly melodic black metal, but as you work your way through the album you see it’s so much more than merely those 3 words. I love the clean guitar tone on this album, its just start of a stellar production job by Glenn Fricker over at Spectre Studios it is such that nothing is hidden, the mix is about as close to perfection as you are going to get.
There are a lot of highlights to this disc but particularly I found “Allure Of The Earth” and “The End Of August” to be my absolute favorites. “Allure Of The Earth” is the lyrical highlight of the album, it amplifies the “makes you think” aspect I mentioned above and really more than anything else betrays this album as unequivocally human. “The End Of August” features the angelic voice of Sarah Green, but in order to get to the highlight of this song, if not the whole album you have to get till some of it’s final moments, you’ll hear a simply mind-blowing duet between Green and Gold with no music at all, simply incredible.
To round out my favorites, and please note I mention 3 songs here but there are no bad songs on this album, “Dragged Across A Forest Floor” is a blast beat laden, heavy as all hell opus that should have most black metal fans worshipping the forest floor David Gold walks upon.
As you can see from all I’ve gushed about thus far, the album has something that should appeal to anyone, melodic black and doom metal fans should be creaming their pants over this album.
It’s that good folks.
It's been less than a month since I went to the release party for this album. Before that, I had been listening to the two songs released online prior to the album, and I couldn't get enough of what I was hearing. I heard a bit of Opeth, a bit of Agalloch, a bit of Ulver, and something that made this album completely unique. So at 10:00 pm the night of the release party, David puts the brand new album in the player at the bar and I'm not sure what to expect. I was fucking amazed right from the start, and it just kept getting better. There is so much variety in this disc, it's one of the most truly astounding releases I've heard in quite a while. Blackened sections with blastbeats and screamed vocals, clean parts with nice vocal harmonies and soothing acoustic guitar, heavy doom riffs, a bit of sludge... Through the 10 songs and 61 minutes of this album, you will go on a journey of contemplation, through day and night, hot and cold, from the blazing sun to the cool, dark earth. I've never heard anything quite like this before, and I'm not sure I will again.
Now, I'm not going to dissect this album for the sound of the instruments or the quality of the musicianship, because to me that takes away from the enjoyment of the album. Nor am I going to dissect it song by song, because this is a very complete album, and is meant to be heard as a whole. The reason for the 98% score is simple: this album is nearly perfect for me. There are a couple of lines in the lyrics that I don't like very much, and I initially disliked the song "Summer's Envy", though it is growing on me now. Overall, an album of unprecedented variety, quality, and fucking metal.