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Not bad at all - 70%

Daemonlord, May 22nd, 2014

This was my first experience of Woe, a USBM band who feature none other than former Krieg drummer Chris Grigg (and now also Shawn Eldridge of Funebrarum/Disma on drums, though it seems that he doesn’t feature on this, their third full length effort). Unlike their name might suggest the Woe guys don’t deal in the jolly funeral black metal as I’d initially expected, but instead rely on a totally rocking, yet thoroughly engaging force of black metal fury with a few nods to a more hypnotic vibe in some of their arrangements. However, this fuzzy, mesmerizing introspection is without shoegaze style wussing out, or any pulling on of woolly jumpers and acoustic guitars for a bit of an old cry about life. They merely build interesting soundscapes and repetitive riffs to give an overall vibe, much in the way early Wolves in the Throne room did.

Woe’s raison d’être seems to be to focus their energy on a crazed barrage of riffage, whilst retaining a solid ‘song’ base for each of the seven tracks on offer here. The music is summed up as a raging storm of guitars which forms in thick clouds in each song, linked together by the odd bits of thrashy riffage (see ‘Carried by Waves to Remorseless Shores of the Truth’), but always crackling with electrical darkness and a positively unrelenting intent. Melodies shine free, with guitars occasionally interweaving 2 differing melodious riffs at once to make some really interesting musical pieces. There’s plenty of early Nachtmystium to be heard in the riffage, as well as nods to the likes of Krallice whilst maintaining their own comfortable boundaries and vibe. The percussion relies a lot on showering a torrent of unforgiving blasting upon you, which acts as a strong (if not entirely distinctive for the most part) backbone to the riffs, which are the body of the band’s sound, similar in ways to Emperor when they used to go full on, pedal to the metal (just without their ever present accompanying symphonics). The vocals are set pretty low in the mix and sometimes become one with the mass of constantly hissing guitars, but admittedly do stand out when going clean (which they do not often enough for my liking, as they sound very similar to Garm who is one of my favourite BM vocalists of all time, for both clean and harsh styles).

The majority of the music on “Withdrawal” relies on the shimmering guitars which hit you in constant waves, only breaking for a few staccato riffs before going back into their natural wall of tone that generally commands the entire sweeping intensity of the album. All in all, I think there is a lot to like here. Woe offers a blizzard of riffage set to sub zero temperatures, preserving their melodic temperament and solid arrangements. Well worth a gander for any fans of USBM, or any of the aforementioned bands.

Originally written for www.avenoctum.com

Not horrible, but extremely disappointing - 65%

narsilianshard, September 3rd, 2013

My anticipation for this album has been high and growing for a while now. Woe’s first full-length, A Spell for the Death of Man, is my favorite USBM album of all time and I’ve closely followed the group ever since discovering it a few years ago. Quietly, Undramatically, which saw the Chris Grigg project turn into a full-fledged band, had them venture into new territories without coming to a complete realization of what their sound should be – a typical symptom of the sophomore slump. Woe ditched the rhythm section after that effort and has spent the last three years honing their craft; playing a few short tours while Chris focused on his work as a producer and tinkering with an acoustic side-project.

Withdrawal kicks off in classic Woe style with a tremolo stab to the neck as extreme energy and frantic speed are highlighted by the focus on ever-changing guitar melodies. The band’s fury has clearly gone nowhere. The production is punchy and a shining example of separating each instrument into its own perfect frequency range, there’s no bleeding of the lower and higher ends which is all too common in metal. “Carried by Waves to Remorseless Shores of the Truth” is the highlight of the album, varying between raw USBM, thrash, and punk sensibilities as all three stringsmen pass around an infectious lead for an addicting seven minutes of chaos. A few songs later, “Song of My Undoing” starts to slow things down a bit. It’s the most laid-back of the seven tracks and it meanders through cross-genre pollination like we heard earlier, but changes its mind and picks up the pace halfway through; losing its intrigue in the process.

As the album progresses it becomes more and more clear that the Philly quartet hasn’t strayed completely off course from what they played around with on the previous record. The occasional clean vocals are now here to stay, and an uncharacteristic group chant even finds its way into the mix; questionably. Apart from the few solos, malicious melodies and vocal changes, there’s not a whole lot that sets Woe apart from their own straightforward black metal sound. Most verses on the album sound interchangeable, doing nothing but following the same tremolo and beat blasting marathons that appear on the tracks before and after; blurring the 43 minutes into a ride where each landmark looks oddly familiar. Withdrawal is an album that suffers from failing to live up to (my own, possibly too high) expectations. But pedestals aside, a third full-length should find a group at the top of their game, instead of attempting more of the same with a dash of half-hearted experimentation. A band of such pedigree and talent should have found their identity by now.

Andy O)))
http://alchemistscave.wordpress.com/