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Cold and Atmospheric - 100%

mike40k, September 24th, 2008

This album will always have a special place in my collection. Hearing the song “Crossing the 45th Parallel” on a sampler disc from BW&BK magazine was my introduction to black metal. I didn't really know what I was hearing, but I knew that there was something special to this type of music. I managed to track down a copy of the album, and then began my long journey into the world of black metal. Anyway, on with the review!

The album starts with a quiet intro played on a clean electric guitar. Then “Shams of Optimism” kicks in with a fast tremolo riff and furious double kick. Pretty soon the vocals join in with this aural assault on the listener. From here the rest of the album plays out in a similar fashion; fast riffs and drumming, with aggressive vocals. However, this is broken up several times via acoustic guitar interludes and clean vocals. The clean vocals may not be the best, but they do an adequate job of giving the listener a brief rest from the vicious attack that is this album.

Great riffs are present on all 5 songs. I have often read of the riffs being compared to Ulver's black metal releases, and while I agree there are similarities, I do not believe it to be merely a carbon copy of Ulver. The riffs add a great deal of atmosphere to the album, as they tend to have a very melancholic feel to them, which when combined with the brutal double kick give an atmosphere that is both cold and claustrophobic. It feels almost like suffocating in a blizzard of hopelessness.

The lyrical theme on the album seems to be one of setting out on a journey, only for it to go wrong. Loss and grief is another running theme on the album. Wanting to leave this place of despair, yet enjoying this state of melancholia would not be a bad summary of the lyrics.

Overall the album is cold, depressing and yet still quite aggressive. While the band may have gone for a much more mainstream doom metal sound with their later work, Against The Seasons is a black metal masterpiece.

A Classic in the Making - 96%

Nyaricus, December 3rd, 2007

Firstly, I must profusely thank Osgilliath from here on M-A for introducing me to this band in September (or so) of 2007. Secondly, this review is for the 2005 remastered and remixed version.


Woods of Ypres, a band only just 5 years old at the time of this review, have offered us a very complex, thoughtful and thought-provoking piece of Canadian Black Metal. Folky, melodic, emotionally raw, and atmospheric are all appropriate descriptors for this fantastic debut EP which was first released in 2002. It is both beautiful in parts, tragic in others, and alight with fantastic lyrics throughout. While I understand a song-by-song review is generally discouraged, this album screams to be reviewed in such a way. Without further ado, I therefore welcome you to the amazing piece of metal by Woods of Ypres entitled in its entirety: Against the Seasons: Cold Winter Songs from the Dead Summer Heat.

The first track "The Shams of Optimism" begins with a little acoustic part, then kicks off into relentless double-bass and tremolo picking which never lets up, save for a small bass-driven section towards the end of the song. None of the band's excellent clean vocals are in this song, but the black vocals are top-notch - expressive, aggressive, and well executed. The song ends a bit abruptly for my tastes; it's a bit "cut-off" sounding and the length (at slightly over 3 minutes) is altogether too short for how wicked this song is.

Then we quickly slip into "Crossing the 45th Parallel", which starts off rather subdued (if only for a moment) and then bursts into frenzied action. This song is perhaps the weakest on the EP, and while it doesn't feel forced, it just doesn't run as smoothly as the other tracks, and the first couple of minutes feel slightly repetitious. Mid-way through, it begins to hit its stride, and then as we approach the end, the song begins to loosen up and show us some better musicianship from Woods of Ypres, especially in the little folky sections which foreshadow what [i]Pursuit of the Sun and Allure of the Earth[/i] will sound like when released a couple years after this. Lots of double kicks, blast beats a-plenty, black metal rasping and tremolo picking are featured in this song, but ultimately it remains an average black metal song, and certainly the weakest one on this album.

As we come to third track the album truly hits its sweet spot; the latter half of this album is undeniably the better, and we begin to hear those awesome clean vocals at this point. The music itself has slows down to a more melancholy pace, rather than the more aggressive duo of opening tracks, and the melodic side of the music comes to the fore.

'The Sea of Immeasurable Loss' really eases you into this change of pace. While the double kicks and tremolo picking is still there, it's as though the shutters to a dusty cabin room have been flung wide open, to bring the fresh air and the sun's lazy beams of light into the crowded interior of this little cottage. Some nice acoustic guitar parts are featured to the songs utmost advantage, and the clean vocals are calm and serene and really help set the mood. It's an excellent mix of elements, altogether, and sets you up for what is in my opinion the best WoY song to date.

On 'A Meeting Place and Time', we come to the magnum opus of this album. This songs atmosphere is eerie and disquieting to me, as the social interplay of the two characters in the song are all too similar to a situation I went through with an ex-girlfriend of mine. The way in which this song builds up, and the folky, spine-chilling atmosphere of the song combined with the black metal side of it is simply amazing. Finally, as those grim vocals proclaim at 5:01 in the song, " I hope it's cold, everyday, where you are," and that solo kicks in at about 5:07, the song just hits you like an emotional wave - a bludgeoning, unrelenting assault on the emotions. It's just fucking breath-taking, and the doomy melancholy is certainly another hint towards what's to come.

On the final track, 'Awaiting the Inevitable', there are three things which truly stick out for me. Firstly, the drums. While the David Gold is more than confident on the other tracks of the album, this track is simply driven by the drums. He blasts at all the right times, there are tons of cleanly executed drum rolls, and over-all, the drums are very noticeably on this track. They do not, however, impede on any other element either (which is a good thing). Secondly, the second of only two solos is featured on this song, and it's a BASS SOLO - highly unusual in any style of extreme metal, nevermind black metal (you can hear it at 2:23 to 2:37). Finally, the last element of this track which made it very enjoyable for me was the very articulate and mature lyrics and the vocal execution thereof. This is not to say that the rest of the album is childish or choppy in regards to vocals or lyrics, but this last track has some great philosophical meanderings and the way in which the vocalist extols them is something again removed from the rest of the album; and, indeed, an improvement. This track is a delightful mix of blast beats, tremolo picking, clean and screamed vocals, acoustic guitar and the awesome bass guitar parts. Certainly a contender for the best track, and certainly another instant favourite for most.

This album, as a whole, is a little masterpiece of Canadian black metal, and indeed black metal as a whole. It incorporates everything that makes black metal the wonderful genre it is - blast beats, screamed vocals, tremolo picking riffage - and then goes beyond those stereotypes to add in plenty of melody, little folky pieces, a certain doomy atmosphere, acoustic parts and harmonious clean vocals. This album is certainly a classic for the genre, and of underground metal itself. Highly recommended.

Excellent debut - 85%

Mikesn, January 19th, 2007

Ypres is a municipality in the Flanders region of Belgium. Though today it may not mean much too very many people, back ninety years ago during the heights of World War I, Ypres was a place of much terror, death, and destruction. It was here that the British and German empires locked horns in three different battles, each lasting months at a time. Being sent there meant almost certain death for tens of thousands of people. Perhaps this is why the natives of Windsor, Ontario, Woods of Ypres, made reference to this once terrible place. You see, Woods of Ypres focuses on the not so pleasant things in life – despair, darkness, sadness. The kind of emotions that the vast armies of the warring empires must have felt as they rotted away in the trenches of Ypres. Against the Seasons (full name: Against the Seasons: Cold Winter Songs from the Dead Summer Heat), was a demo, and the first recording of Woods of Ypres. Originally, it was released in 2002, but the band re-released in 2005.

The music found on Against the Seasons can be described with relative ease. Melancholic; raw; emotional; cold. These are all adjectives which could describe the band's debut album. And you do not have to go looking for these elements for them to become apparent. No, the raw melancholy can be felt through each and every song, from the opening seconds of The Shams of Optimism through to the closing moments of Awaiting the Inevitable 30 minutes later. Though their song structures are a little more than slightly different, Woods of Ypres somewhat reminds me Opeth through their long, sombre musical passages. However, do to the (lack of) production, the passages and interludes in Against the Seasons are not as easy to make out. But still listenable, and each song has plenty of outstanding moments. The 7 minute track, The Sea of Immeasurable loss stands out here, as is the most interesting song of the album. Vocally, the Against the Seasons demo is slightly different than the band's debut album. For the most part, Woods of Ypres makes use of the raspy black metal vocal technique. The harsh vocals found on the demo are done by a former member, Brian McManus. They fit the dark moods very well, helping create a bleak, sombre atmosphere. Though I am not always a fan of the vocal style, it does not take away from the music at all, and I find his performance quite likeable. Overall, Woods of Ypres definitely impresses with Against the Seasons, and make excellent use of their musical talents.

As I mentioned earlier, the lyrical approach of David Gold reflects around despair, darkness and other similar subjects. Now for those of you who enjoy these themes, you will find yourselves right at home. But if you're like me, and don't have any particular interest in this kind of stuff, well fear not. Though they contemplate on the more negative aspects of life, the lyrics are not cries for attention or help. Instead they are honest musings of the band's primary songwriter. They some my ignore them due to the harsh vocals, the lyrics in fact, are pretty fascinating. Though some of the lyrics David has penned seem slightly silly, the emotion and depth involved is definitely impressive. The lyrics both play a large and small part of the demo. They help contribute to the melancholic feelings of the album, and for that, I'd say they play an important role. Well then how can they affect the album in a small way at the same you ask? Well for the simple reason that not everyone listens to music with the lyrics right in front of them, and through the harsh vocals, may lose a few listeners.

Against the Seasons: Cold Winter Songs From the Dead Summer Heat is definitely one of the more impressive demos I've heard. It combines raw, melodic black metal with a melancholic atmosphere. While listening it is obvious that a ton of effort was put into the creation of the demo, and it shows through in the music. Each band member has a strong showing, and not once does anyone slip up in his performance. Woods of Ypres should have quite a good career in front of them if they can build on the momentum they've created with their first two releases. The band's next album, Woods 3: The Deepest Roots and the Darkest Blues (what's the deal with all of these long titles?), is due for an early 07 release, and should be quite an interesting album. And while we wait for its release, Against the Seasons is definitely a recording worth listening to. Pick this up if you happen to find it.

(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)

Good, But Not Great...Meh - 50%

corviderrant, March 14th, 2006

Canada is generally a haven for weird, innovative bands that push the boundaries of metal past their established limits, or so I thought in the past. Woods of Ypres don't suck, but the music is just...there. It doesn't reach out and grab my head and slam it into the wall like good metal ought to.

The black vocals are serviceable, and the clean vocals are flat and somewhat limited in range. And musically this reminds me more of Immortal than anything else, only minus Abbath's godly riff skills. I can see where the Opeth comparisons come in, as they do attempt an epic feel on some of their songs, but they fall just short of anything truly compelling. And if you're going to attempt to play anything along those lines, you really need to grab people with something, whether it be dynamics, strong riffs and segueways, innovative musicianship, something. These are not really in evidence here.

This is competently-played melodic black metal more than anything else, and to their credit, WOY do not rely on keyboards for melody like most bands of that sort do. In fact, the keyboard presence is minimal on this release and I commend them for that if nothing else. And I give them credit for trying to do something other than the usual "nekro kvlt" garbage that passes for black metal much of the time. But I wouldn't rush to order this or anything.

A promising debut - 80%

brainsmasher, March 14th, 2006

These guy formed in summer of 2002 and they have already garnered a fair amount of acclaim and chatter worldwide. Its all absolutely justified, because Woods of Ypres do what they do very well. Any black metal fan will find a smorgasbord of styles to delve into with this band, they are so varied and eclectic that its even hard to corner them into any certain subcategory more specific than black metal. They remind me of many obscure northern and central European black metal albums around 1993-1998.
Some of the songs begin with a somber / dirgy undistorted guitar melody and slowly ease into a more harsh and distorted midpaced melodic structure. One of the bands bread and butter talents is their excellent harmonizing between the two guitar tracks and the bass. Some moments are pretty speedy and angry, which I appreciate because it gives the band a lot of variance, but what Woods of Ypres does best is the more midpaced sort of doomy black metal stuff. You'll find lots of good clean vocal passages throughout the songs, a few acoustic guitar passages here and there, but no synths.
Another thing that makes this such an enjoyable release is the production. Everything is mixed with perfection, the bass drums aren't a prevalent element to the music but they are easily hear at any moment. They make a perfect backdrop for the thin but surrounding spectrum of guitar and bass tones. The vocals are right up front where they should be, not too loud, and nicely buried by the guitar fuzz. The vocals have just the right touch of reverb on them as well.
In closing if you are looking for some atmospheric black metal to get addicted to, or if you have worn out your Agolloch album by listening to them too many times. Give Woods of Ypres a listen, I personally guarantee that you will be hearing a lot more about them in the very near future.

Cold winter songs... - 91%

dreadventurouz, September 21st, 2004

I'd like to start off by stating that I'm a HUGE fan of this band and have been following them for quite a while now. This album/demo is quite different from their second release, containing a slightly colder and rawer production and a less appealing mix. The drums, especially the bass drum, sounds pretty far from what I consider ideal. I prefer a much deeper, more powerful double-kick sound. The vocals here are somewhat traditional black metal screams, and are lost behind the music in some parts. These black vocals which dominate the cd are interspersed with positively brilliant clean vocals by departed band member Aaron Palmer. His emotional and powerful voice is a perfect accompaniment to the softer parts of this album.

Now, on to the songs themselves. Though all five songs are well written both musically and lyrically, I find that the album really picks up with "The Sea of Immeasurable Loss," a personal favourite of mine, and remains at this powerhouse level until it's closing seconds. That is not to say that there is anything WRONG with "Intro: The Shams of Optimism" and "Crossing the 45th Parallel". They simply seem a bit dull and not fully realized when compared to the encaptivating trio that follows. This is partly due to the very endearing clean vocals of Mr. Palmer, as discussed previously.

Woods of Ypres has never been a band to stick to the clichés and confines of a genre. The music goes far beyond what is typical of a black metal release, especially a demo. The very strong and personal lyrics of songwriter David Gold are on another level from your usual black metal band. Overall, an excellent release, and though the original is out of print, it'll be re-released with new art, remixed and remastered by the end of 2004... so pick it up, you won't regret it!

Best Demo I've Ever Heard - 95%

necromancer, June 16th, 2004

This is probably the best demo from any band in ontario at the moment. Woods of Ypres are a band that I've seen compared so many other bands, but they definatly stand alone and especially in the ontario scene. The only way I see fit to describe them is black metal style vocals (with clean vocal parts aswell) over melodic meloncholic black metal, although I feel the term Black metal really doesn't fit the mood nor the message of this band, the music is definatly along the lines. The cool thing about this cd is that it really gives you the feeling of wintery type atmosphere like it's trying to do, but it accomplishes it better than most albums of it's type do.

THE SHAMS OF OPTIMISM - This song is an intro to the next track but it still is pretty much a song on it's own, and it's awsome. It starts out with a soothing guitar line then hits you like a ton of bricks with black metal ferocity. It's an aggressive song but has some very emotional melodies intertwined with the heavy riffs. Then it fades into.....

CROSSING THE 45th PARALLEL - This song has some great lyrics in it, but do take a couple listens to really get into. Very excellent bass work in this one, the basslines hop along with the rest of the music doing a bunch of cool runs through out the track. This song is amazing but if you don't listen to the intro first your just depriving yourself.

THE SEA OF IMMEASURABLE LOSS - This song comes in heavy then goes into a sweet little quite part with a good little march beat that really kicks the song in with vocals. The clean vocals in this song are excellent and will definatly get you singing along and banging your head with your fist in the air. The ending half of this song I found to be the best part of it though, the rest is great but it just builds up better and better.

A MEETING PLACE IN TIME - Now here is the ballady type of song for this cd, not that thats a bad thing in fact for a slower song (which i usually hate), this one actually has my head bobbing and keeps me singing along with it. Some excellent riff writing in this one, though not very complicated it manages to change enough and have the sweetest melodies I've heard from any band in a long time. I can tell this song would be pleasing to most ears because if a hardcore metal guy like me and my 50 some-odd year old mom can both agree that this song kicks ass, then I'm sure most other people would be able to aswell.

AWAITING THE INEVITABLE - They couldn't of picked a better spot on the album then the end because this one leaves a lasting impression on the listener. My personal favorite of the cd. Anyway, it starts out with a clean guitar riff then the double bass drums blast you away for a grim sounding march that leads into some sweet melodies. This song has a kinda traditional sounding bass break down in it, but it still fits it's place and deserves to be there cause you just know the mosh pit would be exploding after it kicks in.

In the end I have to say that if you love emotional metal and aren't very picky about bounderies set up by genre(s), then you have a very high possibility that you will get your rocks off with this cd but if you can't get past the emotion and want more hardcore aggressive stuff with satanic or gory lyrics then this probably isn't for you.

Why the hell does everyone think this is so good? - 15%

Abominatrix, October 31st, 2003

I decided to check this band out at the recommendation of a friend. Well, what can I say..I always figured this guy didn't have the greatest taste, but several other people said this was a great up-and-coming band, so I had to give it a listen. The demo was compared to Ulver's "Bergtatt", which, although not normally the type of black metal I find myself listening to, is an album I really appreciate. This, however, is almost painful, moreso because everyone seems to be mindlessly singing its acolaides. What we have here is some fast tremolo picking, some lazy loping chords that vaguely attempt to be atmospheric, and some downright terrible vocals. I counted a total of one great riff on this demo, on track two I believe it was, and it lasted for about five seconds. I thought, "if they could write some riffs like that and merge them with some actually well thought out melodic passages, this band could be really good"...but sadly, they never do.

For some reason, a lot of Ontarians seem to think good black metal consists of mindless melodic noodling and hissy, flegm-choked vocals. I don't know exactly what the problem is, but I suspect it has something to do with a lot of young blood being introduced to bands like Emperor and Ulver and Immortal and forging ahead with a rather distorted ideal of what playing this type of music is all about, without really having any background in good metal besides the aforementioned older and admittedly often very good second wave BM stalwarts. It's releases like this, or rather, the positive reactions they seem to generate, that make me lose faith in the scene here. Woods....would probably be capable of producing some good music if they broadened their musical horizons beyond Ulver and Opeth, and got a new vocalist, but sadly, the praise they're getting at this point is probably feeding their egos to the point where they actually believe they're the crown jewel of Canadian melodic "black metal"...damn, I hesitate to even call this by that name.