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Hopeless Gloom and the Identity of Ideas - 95%

Twisted_Psychology, June 27th, 2022

Having secured a reputation as one of the most innovative bands in black metal, White Ward’s third full-length further refines their signature mix of blackgaze and dark jazz. 2019’s Love Exchange Failure broadened the Ukrainians’ scope and False Light continues in much of the same fashion with similar contrasts between blasting segments and saxophone-driven meandering against a dreary urban backdrop. However, there are enough forward developments to keep this from feeling like a retread.

For starters, this album sees the musicians putting even greater emphasis on more melodic segments. Clean vocals from a variety of guest performers are abundant along with heightened synths and the production seems to have a bit more polish while still maintaining the atmosphere. There’s also more room devoted to exploring genres beyond their usual blend; “Salt Paradise” is a fantastic excursion into neofolk with its subdued acoustic foundation and building textures while flashes of goth rock influence get their chance to shine on the driving “Cronus.” There’s also no denying the simple jazz pleasure on a track like the three-minute “Echoes in Eternity” and “Downfall.”

But while the band devotes more time to their less extreme side, there are still a couple black metal behemoths lingering about that allow their heavier moments to be some of their most aggressive to date. The guitars seem to have more weight than before, leaning decidedly more on the post-metal end with their bottom-heavy sludge while still maintaining their tremolo bursts and morose leads. A couple songs even venture into doom territory as the extended crawls that start the beginning of “Phoenix” and define “Silence Circles” remind me of REZN with their similar marriage of saxophone laments and fuzz riffs.

Overall, White Ward’s third album is another high-quality step in a powerful trajectory. False Light shares many of the tropes that defined their previous releases, but it feels like the songwriting comes with more nuance this time around. The structures go deeper than the rigid heavy-soft contrasts and there’s a lot of room devoted to exploring genres beyond their usual jazzy blackgaze. It’s easy to imagine the possibility of White Ward going even further into these excursions. In the meantime, False Light just might be their most realized effort so far.

White Ward - False Light: A True Proposal - 100%

Steppenwolf1997, June 26th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, CD, Debemur Morti Productions (Digipak)

White Ward is a Ukrainian band formed in 2012. The main characteristic of this band is a unique black metal, which could be subclassified within the subgenre known as post-black metal, a style to which they add certain experimental nuances in all their works. So far the band has released three studio albums: 2017's Futility Report, 2019's Love Exchange Failure and 2022's False Light. The latter album, whose duration is one hour and six minutes, will be the one to receive the spotlight in this review.

As we mentioned in the first paragraph White Ward composes music that falls within one of the broadest subgenres of metal, black metal. And because of its breadth we can classify it within one of the subgenres of this subgenre, post-black metal. Along with the style they play, the band has been characterized by including from the beginning certain experimental touches and instrumental sections with a touch of jazz, especially with the occasional use of the saxophone. But in this album the use of the saxophone reaches a much more preponderant level.

In this album we can find a perfectly balanced mix between black metal and jazz in which black metal is the predominant part. The presence of the saxophone intensifies and becomes one of the main instruments of the album to the point that the band has given the entrance to a saxophonist as part of the main line-up. Along with this instrument we can highlight the excellent instrumental quality of the two guitars, the bass and the drums. In each of the songs we will find distinctive riffs, marked by the style of post-black metal that will catch us on the first listen. The guitars find their essence mixing different influences from riffs marked by the tremolo-pikcing of the Norwegian black metal school bands like Ulver passing through riffs, sounds and atmospheres close to the avant-garde black metal of bands like Sigh or Imperial Triumphant and the atmospheric black metal of Agalloch until getting to integrate with that distinctive style of White Ward that is found in post-black metal. These guitars give us an atmosphere, emotion and strength indispensable to the album.

The drums keep an incredible rhythm, speeding up and slowing down at the right moments. It is necessary to emphasize that the best thing in terms of drums is the drummer's technique to create powerful blast beats and to maintain a demolishing speed that also expresses an excellent rhythm that complements and couples in the parts marked by black metal and also in the parts closer to jazz, as well as in the sections where these two genres are combined. So the drums give us an excellent rhythm and a control of the tempos that maintain the fluidity of this album. On the other hand, the bass performs a high level accompaniment that helps the listener to submerge in the rhythm and in the deepest part of each song while merging with the atmospheres created by the guitars with each riff. The bass is in charge of giving depth and connection to each of the instruments.

Finally, as far as instrumentalization is concerned, the saxophone puts the icing on the cake to a spectacular work. Every note, every melody and every section where the saxophone is present is incredible. This instrument gives freshness to each song, and also gives the album a novel touch, even though it is not the first to use this type of elements, and delivers a proposal worthy of applause. But the saxophone not only gives an innovative aspect, but also provides the vibe and the varied nuances of jazz, we are faced with a saxophone that expresses melodies totally turned towards this genre and especially towards the jazz of the urban environment. Therefore, it conveys that feeling of freedom typical of improvised jazz. In this way, it gives us atmospheres and passages that help the listener to let himself be carried away by the music and let his thoughts and emotions go.

On the other hand, we must highlight the strength and presence of the singer's voice that complements the instruments and helps to personify the incredible lyrical level of this album. This lyric is expressed through a high level writing embodied in lyrics about society and the human condition in today's world, which accompanied by the music and the atmospheres created by the band lead the listener to reflect and think about his emotions and the different human and social contexts that surround him, making a deep introspection. Anyway, even if we don't pay attention to the lyrics the music by itself is able to create in us as listeners that state of reflection and thought while leading us to concentrate and go deeper into the album. So, in our opinion, we can affirm that the guitar and the saxophone are the best of this album.

Each song has an essence of its own and manages to fascinate and capture the listener's attention. There is an incredible fluidity between the instrumental moments and the sections that feature vocals and instruments so that the songs are like a river flowing towards its destination. Although in a more precise way we could say that in this album the water follows a most varied course, being stream, river, waterfall or a real torrent at different moments of the album, there is a wide variety of tempos during the hour-long duration of this work. The musical stream that integrates this wonderful work is full of variety, different speeds, captivating atmospheres, well-written lyrics, instruments executed to perfection and a strong and rough voice accompanied by another softer voice for the sections that require it. In this way a solid album is built, whose musical quality is undeniable and that presents us with an interesting proposal through this wonderful syncretism between black metal and jazz.

We recommend listening to this album to anyone who likes good black metal, avant-garde metal or post-metal. We even consider that someone who enjoys music in general can find a lot of joy in this album. Its first listen is not difficult unlike other post-metal material, so if you decide to give White Ward a chance this album is perfect to start with. Our rating is 100 points.