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Further Proof the American BM Scene Is Rising - 80%

FullMetalAttorney, December 28th, 2010

Woe is an American (New Jersey/Pennsylvania) black metal band whose second album (and first as a complete band) Quietly, Undramatically got a lot of end-of-year praise in 2010, so I decided to check it out.

Their sound is instantly recognizable as American black metal, inviting comparisons to Instinct: Decay-era Nachtmystium. The band was started by Chris Grigg, who seems to be, spiritually at least, a drummer (he has played drums for Krieg). The drums are very prominent in the mix, and it's a pleasure to hear them. They are interesting throughout the album. The beat is recognizably distinct in each song, there is a wide variety of fills (check out the cleanly sung section in the title track), and they have a perfectly natural tone. They are often the most aggressive instrument on the album.

In contrast to the drums, the guitars tend toward the understated. They generally play at a slower pace, only rarely venturing into full-on tremolo picking territory. The riffs sometimes have a hard rock sensibility (see the opening of the title track). All the guitar work is simple, but there is enough variety to keep things interesting (the hint of dissonance in opener "No Solitude" or the solos to "The Road from Recovery"). The vocals are generally done in a screechy Norwegian style, with the occasional growl and one very well-done cleanly sung section. You probably won't notice the bass except at the end of the epic "Full Circle".

Woe knows how to write a quick, aggressive cut, like "Without Logic" or closer "Hatred Is Our Heart". But longer, sad (woeful, even) tracks like the title track and "Full Circle" are where they really shine. Each instrument has a deceptively simple role to play in these progressively structured songs, which lead you on a journey rather than just assaulting your senses.

The Verdict: This is a very good album, and it's further proof that the American black metal scene is on the rise. I would have been much more impressed by this album if I hadn't already heard Kansas City's Lo-Ruhamah and their amazing The Glory of God (it has a very similar approach, but absolutely blows this album away). But this is good nonetheless.

originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/

I couldn't hear a pin drop - 63%

autothrall, November 23rd, 2010

Oh, these clever bastards and their misleading album titles. Woe is the offspring of Chris Grigg's imagination, a man you might know as the new drummer in fellow US tyrants Krieg. A few years ago, he released A Spell for the Death of Man, an album he had written and performed all by his lonesome, which possessed the same hybrid of drifting and blasphemy that we come to associate from many black metal artists in America; not so different from a Thralldom, Cobalt or Krallice, but pierced with the stake of fairly lengthy, traditional compositions that were often heavy on repetitious blast beats. My reaction was that it was alright, but I had hoped he would venture forth into the more sonically included terrain of the chords he cast across the din of dull expectations.

With the follow-up, which is not so quiet or undramatic as its title implies, he seems to have developed along the lines I had pondered, and the result is a more dynamic, organic sounding album. Part of this is that he's expanded the band into a full, breathing entity, joined by several members of his other project The Green Evening Requiem, who are also in the rather lacking (in my opinion) Woods of Ypres. Regardless, this seems like a good combination to perform Woe's music, because they too dowse their more straightforward influences in the wall of sound that many of us seem to enjoy on these shores. Where it works, like the 8 minute title track or the scintillating "A Treatise on Control", we are carried off into an existential realm where darkness and sadness are weighed off, one never quite overshadowing the other. But not every song delivers the same measure of razor bliss, and the 13 minute "Full Circle" becomes a rather sodden bore after about a quarter of its playtime, and the afterthought "Hatred is Our Heart" has maybe one decent riff.

The sound is not so shining and cutting as its predecessor, but I do actually favor this prevalent, structural balance of highs and lows. The lyrics are emotional explorations of solitude and social castigation, with the sort of poignant and image-heavy lyrics that one might expect out of the melodic hardcore of the 80s, or maybe Katatonia; effective and fitting to the sounds, but rather faceless in their construction. The band is clearly doing something right, as they've created a stir in the underground and signed with hard hitter Candlelight Records, but I ultimately found Quietly, Dramatically to be another example of those USBM releases that fade almost instantly from my attention span, like Wolves in the Throne Room, Cobalt, and so forth. There are very few riffs of quality, most feeling rather tepid and disingenous, thus the contents are left to their atmosphere and emotional discourse to drag the listener in, and they fall a little flat. Not by any means a bad effort, but pretty average in the grand scheme of things that are, and things to come.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Transportive, Enigmatic, Excellent - 88%

atanamar, November 2nd, 2010

Quietly, Undramatically harpooned me immediately on a sonic level, with rarefied, transportive riffs, bright production and vivid drumming. As a listening experience, the album is deeply tied into its lyrical content. On the one hand, the album ponders our mournful mortal struggles, and on the other, it tackles beguiling metaphysical quandaries. It takes a lot these days for anything approaching conventional black metal to grab my attention, but Woe have succeeded in branding a black mark in my consciousness.

Riffs always win the day. Chris Grigg delivers a deluge of memorable, melodic and varied guitar work. The mandatory waves of tremolo-picked pandemonium never fade into background noise. These songs demonstrate an ability to channel the tried and true essence of black metal in fresh, if not new, directions. The riffs are comprised of melodies that at times are austere and at others possessed of a bleak emotional undertow. Ghostly lead guitar accents augment some passages and sparing clean arpeggiations fill out the sonic seascape.

Evan Madden delivers an entirely human and entirely complementary drum performance. He eschews robotic blasting for rhythmic diversity and character. The sinuous, organic drums make this music lively and engaging to my ears while inducing much banging of the head. The percussion is forward in the mix, and I find its prominence refreshing. The cataract roils at varying speeds, mostly flowing at a brisk pace. The songs often bob along with a lilt that evokes memories of Enslaved's Eld. Other stretches move with the ambient abandon of Wolves in the Throne Room or the frenetic verve of Krallice.

Chris Grigg's vocals give life to brooding, enigmatic lyrical prognostications. He shifts between a heartier death gurgle and an anguished black metal scream, sometimes augmented by echoing reverb. “The Road From Recovery” examines the tortured path of progress, regression and depression, brought upon ourselves “because this body demands it always lose.” The title track is a meditation on one's own death, explaining how “I focus on the end and how I know that it will take me. Quietly. Undramatically.” This song features a brief presentation of excellent clean vocals, delivered with affecting authority. Their inclusion might repulse a purist, but I enjoy the depth they add to the track.

“A Treatise On Control” ponders our power to control absolutely nothing in this life, while also seeming to deny the power of a divine creator. “Without Logic” explores a knowing disavowal of rational existence, stating that “the world's been explained at the cost of my soul. A predictable planet's preferred by the weak. I look deep inside and refuse now to think.” “Hatred is our Heart” takes a step away from the cerebral proceedings, reading like an indictment of corpse-painted, theatrical black metal. The track, replete with gruff gang vocals, proclaims the integrity of artists who shun pseudonyms and false identities.

Seemingly apropos of nothing in the lyrics, the liner notes conclude with the the statement, “Some things change. Some things stay the same. Woe is Satanic black metal. Hatred is our Heart” I'm not exactly sure what that means anymore in this day and age, but it's quite possible I missed something along the way. Then again, perhaps “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.” Either way, this apparent dichotomy does nothing to dull my enjoyment of the album or the sentiments it explores.

Originally posted here: http://atanamar.blogspot.com/

Review on threnodies.com - 89%

nilgoun, October 24th, 2010

Review orignally released on http://threnodies.com. Direct-link: http://threnodies.com/2010/10/24/woe-quietly-undramatically/

Often people judge something due to it's appearence and name, and miss some really good things due to this attitude. If you would judge the new Woe album like this, you would be hit between the eyes, because its anything but quiet or undramatic. Read on, if you want to know why you could partially rely on you first impression anyways and where the flaws are!

Woe is an american band, which was formed in 2007 and consists of two members. Quietly, Undramatically is their second album and the fourth output in general. Their previous releases were quite renowned and that is how it came that Candlelight Records signed them for their new release.

The intro No Solitude is boosting its atmosphere literately artful from dignified sounds to pure power right into the first track The Road From Recovery. But not only the intro shows it's virtuosity, the whole album seems to wander on the thin line between filigreed passages, partly combined with clean vocals, and rough parts full of depression and wrath. While The Road From Recovery just shows you the side of thrashing, you can discover the extraordinary compositional power of Woe by listening to the title-track and to Full Circle.

In fact, the songs on Quietly, Undramatically could remind you on Die Pest or maybe on some songs by Nargaroth, but nevertheless you will not miss the individuality a good metal album needs. Unfortunately, thats where we discover some shortages: the rough and brutal composition is indeed part of the genre, but yet the undifferentiated production always dulls great music to a certain point. Also, the mentioned similarities are creating a certain monotony, but these are of course contrastive to the commended songs, especially The Road From Recovery. Last point criticizing: the running-time of ca. 45 minutes is way to short, although it's quite common in nowadays music.

Conclusion:

Catchy riffing and well considered composition in contradistinction to monotony and problems in the production, that might be the fitting description for the album. Since you'll always find flaws, the positive aspects of Quietly, Undramatically are definitely dominating. Woe released an absorbing album, which leaves nothing to be desired, so go on ahead and listen to it!