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Pure psychedelic melancholy - 80%

HeidraCatharsis, November 13th, 2007

Warning: this music may cause insanity.

Upon getting this split album, I knew very little about Woods Of Infinity, and nothing at all about Joyless. I had just discovered the brilliance of WoI, and therefore I sought to acquire all the releases I could find with their logo on it. No matter how great a band WoI is, Joyless definitely provides the standout aspect of this split.
Seeing as this album only contains four tracks, I don't think a song-by-song review would do any harm.

So, WoI starts off with their one-track contribution to this split, Uppgivet Hjärta(meaning dejected/hopeless heart), and anybody familiar with this band won't be very surprised. They deliver their usual ice cold, depressive and mesmerizing metal with eerie, sorrowful guitar melodies, slow, pounding drums, distant screams and creepy choir chanting in the background, their trademark samples(a young woman crying heavily, distant, cheerful radio melodies etc), and above all, Ravenlord slowly and dreamingly speaking of the most darkest feelings, the deepest depressions, sheer despair and loneliness. He doesn't sing, he doesn't scream, he just speaks in a deep, steady voice.

The reviewer above me stated that he/she thoroughly enjoyed WoI despite not being able to understand the lyrics; all I can say is that roughly 80% of the brilliance of this music is due to the lyrics, and the way they are delivered. Generally, I never care much about a band's lyrics rather than the music, but in this case, I consider them to be WoI's primal strength as a band, and they have been for their entire career. All I can say is that the lyrics are a perfect reflection of the music; the darkest corners of the human mind, a perfect verbal rendition of darkness, depression and insanity. Any WoI-fan who doesn't speak Swedish needs to have some lyrics translated for them right now, since their appreciation for the band would probably increase about 20 times.
This is really, truly scary. Probably some of the scariest music I've ever heard.

But, despite this, in my opinion it's Joyless that makes this record what it is.
As I said, I knew nothing at all about them before listening to these songs, and after listening, I can honestly say that I know even less. It's pretty hard to describe; you simply can't put words on a band like this. I think the closest description would be that this is the musical equivalent of the nocturnal carnival scene in the movie Apocalypse Now: death, darkness, insanity and misery mixed with childlike, colorful expressions of joy and laughter, creating the most twisted, psychedelic, eerie and frightening atmosphere possible.

Track number one, Ingenting(Nothing) consists of distant, muffled rock-riffing and a steady drum beat(the production of the songs make them sound very distant, like they're being played on the other side of a wall, which only adds to the mysterious atmosphere) and a beautiful, almost cheerful female voice singing undistinguishable words. The opening riff actually reminds me of Jumping Jack Flash by the Rolling Stones. Although there is nothing particularly dark about this song, there is still some feeling to it, something cold that crawls under your skin, giving you an impression that this is just a well-disguised, almost ironic musical description of a dark and deeply twisted mind.
I should warn you about one thing in this song: towards the end, extremely loud and distorted church bells start to chime. It scares the shit out of me everytime, and just makes me feel deeply uncomfortable, even on the verge of paranoia, although that's probably the point.

The next track, Vinternatt(Winter night) contains no vocals, only creepy, almost folkish guitar chords and a steady percussion beat. Once again, the feeling of ''they're hiding so much subtle darkness in these light-hearted little songs, it scares me shitless'' is very much present. I think this is due to the fact that their message is so unclear, so mysterious and obscure. You don't know what their intentions are, you don't know what they're trying to say, they just play their simplistic music, concealing everything inside of it. I guess that their message is far from this extreme in reality, but it's the impression that I get.

The third and final track, Stalingrad, could probably be called dark ambient, whereas the other two songs are harder to label. It consists only of distant, moody guitar chords, making it the only song with a really distinguishable dark and depressive atmosphere. Just as the other songs, the production makes the music sound muffled without really affecting the sound quality, and it runs for about 2 minutes. It seems almost as if the descending musicality of the three tracks in order 1-3(less instruments, more distant) could be metaphorical for a life fading out.

I really don't know why I'm philosophizing this much about such an unknown and obscure band, but as I've said so many times, they have something special. The simplicity of their music and image leaves so much for the imagination, it sets your brain to full spin. Is this a highly metaphorical expression of infinite sorrow, a darkness deeper than any mortal could ever imagine, is this the ultimate rendition of a mental depravity we could never dream of? The eyes of the smiling woman and the peaceful-looking bearded man on the cover, are they the eyes that have seen all the pain and evil in the world, are they trying to musically communicate levels of enlightenment that we could never even catch a glimpse of? Or are they just a couple of slackers hanging out in somebody's apartment, drinking cheap beer and recording random pieces of music out of boredom? It's so hard to know, since the music doesn't tell. Whether consciously or unconsciously, Joyless have succeeded in doing the seemingly impossible; making music so simplistic it leaves almost everything to the imagination, building up a mystical aura and almost painful curiosity.

Warning: this insanity may cause music.