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This album is filled with the most aggressive black metal music that Woods of Ypres has ever composed. This album certainly would appeal the most to the black metal fans who are interested in straightforward black metal. The songs have their fair share of aggression, but also have wonderful slower and softer emotional parts, such as in the song "Distractions of Living Alone", which is certainly one of the best songs David Gold ever created. The most straightforward black metal tracks would be songs like "Through Chaos and Solitude I Came..., and Deepest Roots, Darkest Blues. The first song I mentioned among those three is like a black metal anthem with amazing lyrics about what it means to be influenced by black metal and to live a "black metal lifestyle." The song "Your Ontario Town is just a Burial Ground" seems to be one of WofY most popular songs, and with good reason. The song is catchy and has excellent lyrics that people from Ontario can truly relate to. All the other songs are good, if not mediocre at times, and I feel as though they were created as "leftovers" from the other excellent songs. Not to say that these are bad songs, but they do really seem like filler songs. The album would be more accessible in terms of length if they had included fewer songs, but then again if you are a fan of this band, then the more songs the better.
This album is, in my book, the "prime" of Woods of Ypres' career when they had reached their potential and had created some excellent traditional-style black metal songs. This album should appeal to most black metal fans even if some of them cannot seem to get over the fact that, yes, Woods of Ypres did not run around in forests wielding axes and painted up in corpse paint to scare the locals. They just created excellent music from the heart. It certainly was a cold one.
I have the unfortunate duty to report that while this album is, honestly, a worthy offering from Woods of Ypres, the muddled, thick-as-pea-soup and %#@$ing awful production on this album completely takes away from any potential it had. The production is frankly so distracting that I have difficulty getting through this album in one sitting because I tend to get a headache from those bloody drums.
Ah yes, the drums: they sound like a stack of hollow logs being beaten with clubs in a large, echo-y concrete room; in other words they sound fucking awful (indeed, the only clear part of the drums is the ride, which is sparsely used on this record). Sunk beneath those drums are some interesting keyboard work by a Miss Jessica Rose, not that you can tell half the time. Not to mention that the guitars can be driven beneath the keyboards, which are below the drums which are below the vocals - this can get rather aggravating trying to listen to the riffs being played, not to mention the rather non-existent bass. Worse yet, the production is not the same for all tracks, in the (thankfully short) track "Deepest Roots: Belief That All Is Lost" the bass drums and tom-toms tend to drown out everything but the vocals, but more on individual tracks later.
So, my issues with the production aside, what do we have? It would seem we have a rich, proudly Canadian album filled with good musicianship, strong songs and plenty of musical variety. Indeed, Woods of Ypres, founded and fronted by the quadruple-threat composer, singer, guitarist and drummer David Gold loves to experiment in a myriad of metal's sub-genres; on this record we get a taste of melodic/symphonic black metal, melodic black/doom metal, folk metal and even, yes, viking metal.
I find another vexing aspect of this album is that some tracks feel as though they belong more on the previous album "Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth". This is mainly due to the overall sound on this album as focusing on a mix of songs either belonging to the melodic/symphonic black metal school, or the melodic black/doom metal school of metal. The catchy and evocative "Years of Silence (and the Private Joke)", the mournful "December in Windsor" (that has a catchy, weird "twang" tone that a guitar employs) and the pleasant instrumental"Trillium". They aren't exactly filler, per se, but at almost 73 minutes in length this album draws on longer than it's welcome (although this perception is certainly influenced by the wretched production job which makes this album rather torturous in that regard) and certainly these tracks would have made a better addition to a special addition "Allure of the Sun & Pusuit of the Earth" or somesuch (though really, that album is fine as-is anyways, but tangents aside...).
And yet, as much as I seem to nit-pick these details, I can't deny that I do love this album. I will steer away from doing a track-by-track and instead highlight what I think are some strong points from this album.
"Your Ontario Town is a Burial Ground" is a blackened doom/heavy metal affair, and is likely the most non-typical track that Woods has put out to date; with smooth clean vocals, some awesomely headbang-able riffs and some poignant lyrics, this track is by far my favourite.
"Through Chaos and Solitude I Came..." is that viking metal bit I was talking about before. It tastefully mixes in some symphonic bm with some driving Bathory-style viking metal riffs and vocal choruses, and is a wicked track (I love the opening line, as well: "ripping down a valley of asphalt..." and so forth). Similarly, "Thrill of the Struggle" and "To Lock Eyes with a Wild Beast" have obvious viking metal influences in them as well.
The folk metal track "Years of Silence (and the Private Joke)", really reminds me of the vibe I get from "Allure of Sun & Pursuit of the Earth"; the chorus is infectiously catchy, much like "The Ghosts of Summer's Past" from the previous album. Love this one.
The last highlight (of the many potential I could touch upon) would be the last track of this album, "Mistakes Artists Make (The Dream is Dead)". At it's roots, this is a pure melodic black metal track ala Woods of Ypres' first recording "Against the Seasons" - and indeed, if one were to get a hold of the masters and remove the synth lines, one could snugly put this track on said album without much fuss being made about it. This is not to mention the good news that the production finally seems to have worked out, save for the snare tone being atrocious as usual per this album, and the guitars are a bit low; aside from that, the vocals, synths and the drums are finally where they should be. A driven, aggressive black metal track.
My final notes on this album is that there ARE several filler tracks which draw out the agony of this album's terrible production job and do nothing to further the album itself: "Distractions of Living Alone", "Deepest Roots: Belief that All is Lost" and "Song of Redemption". And there's also that other trio of songs which wouldn't find themselves misplaced on the previous album "Allure of the Sun & Pursuit of the Earth", though they are all strong, regardless of my opinion of which album they "belong" on. However, this album's overall strength lies in the the strong songwriting, emotional vocals and lyrics (the latter of which border on cheesy on occasion, in all truth) and lovely synth lines by Miss Rose. Supposedly there is a bass player who contributed to this album, but David Gold seems to have misplaced him somewhere in the mix (ba-dum-chhh).
80%, more had the production been better.
Almost 4 years since Pursuit of the Sun and the next Woods album is finally available... The way this album was hyped up I had pretty high expectations, hoping for a bit of a return to the style found on Against the Seasons. What we have instead is a collection of painfully immature sounding songs that sound like they were put together in maybe 4 weeks, definitely not 4 years.
The production is laughable, especially considering the band spent a year mixing it. The cymbals sound very muddy and lo fi and the guitars have a very harsh raunchy fizz and midrange honk to them which results in a very amateur sounding mix. The intro of "Your Ontario Town is a Burial Ground" is an example of where the production completely ruins any potential that section of music had. Very quacky, weak and thin sounding guitars that could've otherwise sounded quite epic if it was recorded on the neck pickup instead of the bridge pickup, or using a tone that was a bit glassier.
Aside from the production, the music itself sounds like it was written by musicians who haven't developed much of an ear for harmony or melody. Take for example the sour out of key harmony at 3:50 in "Your Ontario Town is a Burial Ground" yet again. There were moments like this on Pursuit of the Sun as well but I had hoped that the band would've grown a bit as musicians since that album. The more you listen to this album the more obvious it becomes that the members lost after the release of the first album were key song writers in the band as there is a level of musical maturity in those songs that is not even close to being paralleled by what we have on the 2 albums following.
While I respect the band's efforts and attempt at creating a truly epic and majestic album, I can't help but notice how badly the band are tripping over their own feet trying to do something that they are clearly not capable of pulling off without a lot more practice and a lot of work put into developing their ears. This once impressive band continues to less refined and mature with each album, this album being particularily embarassing. This album that is supposed to be their crowning achievement sounds more like a demo recorded by a bunch of 17 year olds while their actual demo displays the most advanced and enjoyable music they've written to date. Stick with the first release, this album isn't even worth downloading.
Well, its January 2008 , and the new Woods of Ypres opus has finally arrived. Wasn't this supposed to come out last June? And then in September? And then...? Oh never mind, what matters is that it has finally come out. So the question is, was it worth the wait?
The answer is a resounding yes. Though I had very high expectations for the album, it has delivered in almost all areas. Many of us long time fans wondered how the band would progress and mature since the release of their last disc, The Pursuit of the Sun and Allure of the Earth. What they did was take the aggressive approach of their well received demo and mix it with the more melodic moments of Pursuit to create a more complete and varied album.
While most of the bands past lyrics dealt with a love of nature and dislike for mankind, Woods 3 deals mainly with personal stories, with a few obvious exceptions (The Northern Cold, for example). Songs such as Your Ontario Town is a Burial Ground and the hauntingly beautiful December in Windsor give us a look at band leader David Gold's past, about old friends forgotten and relationships gone bad.
Musically, not much has changed, Blackened Agalloch-like melodies mixed with doomy elements and acoustic passages. This is once again a very vocal dominated record, broken up in the middle by the instrumental Trilllium. The music isn't allowed to breathe as much as I would like it to, and I'm also not crazy about the production. Jessica's keyboard parts are sometimes buried in the mix, and the organic sound the band is probably aiming for based on the atmosphere and lyrics sound a little thin instead.
Only time will tell if Woods 3 will hold the same place in my heart as the mighty Pursuit of the Sun. It does seem to get better with each subsequent listen, and the band have stated many times that they believe this is their most superior work so far, so who am I to argue?
Woods III! After waiting almost three years for this, I was so excited to get it in the mail that I accidentally ripped the corner off of the bumper sticker that was included. I'm not going to lie -- I honestly thought this was never going to be completed. Am I ever glad that it was, and not just because I paid $20 to preorder it! This album is as Canadian as it gets, western alienation intact.
Upon listening to this album for the first time, I noticed that their sound has matured quite a bit from their debut album. Woods III flows similarly to albums by Agalloch and Opeth, though to compare it to those bands would be wrong, because this is a different thing entirely. The "alternative" influence that was so prevalent on their last album is still there, but this time it isn't overwhelming. This is definitely a metal album, and WHAT a metal album it is. The melodies are laid out with more care, and the clean vocals have improved vastly. The production is also a lot better this time around. My only complaint is that the keyboards are drowned out at times.
While the composition and execution of this album have definitely improved, the lyrics are at times a little awkward, and perhaps a bit too specific, leading to alienation of those listeners who are not familiar with life in Ontario. "Through the Chaos and Solitude I Came" even borders on "silly", though it obviously comes from the heart. That's not to say that I dislike the lyrics. Quite the contrary, actually. I find that I can relate to many of the songs on here, including "Your Ontario Town". If it did not repeatedly say "Ontario", it could've been written about my hometown.
This album definitely has weak points, but those weak points are overshined by the multitude of amazing melodies, the contrast between the clean and the growled vocals, and the pure emotion that radiates from each and every song. There is not one "filler" track on here. Each song is an individual work of art. This is a band that knows what they're doing, and I predict that this album will be well-received even by those who hated their last album.