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A modern classic; an unfortunate swan song - 100%

BlackMetal213, February 5th, 2017

I have decided to, for the time being, focus on reviewing albums I consider classic. Whether they are modern or, well, CLASSIC classics, this is what I will focus on. And this album falls into the modern classic category. Woods of Ypres. A band that for some reason, has never gotten the credit they deserve. At least not until after David Gold’s untimely demise shortly before this album was released. I’ll admit, while I do like this band, I am not going to say they are one of my favorites of all time. Well, I should say OVERALL, they are not. However, “Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light” is definitely one of my favorite albums of all time. This surpasses any of the band’s previous works by far and ranks in my top 10 metal albums ever released. That’s right, ever. The overall list. Few albums manage to be this effective at capturing pure emotion in musical form. Sure we have some really good albums that do a very good job with this, but really, few manage to match “Woods 5”. This is one of the saddest, most melancholic and dreary records ever recorded. At least, of all the albums I’ve heard in my life.

“Lightning & Snow” opens up with one of the album’s few actual screams, and in comparison to the remaining tracks, is one of the more aggressive. You will quickly find that here, screams are not too common but this song, as well as a very few selection of others such as within “Keeper of the Ledger”, does boast a decent amount of them. Then, David’s singing comes in. This was, for sure, his finest moments. While listening to this, I really get the feeling that this was meant to be Woods of Ypres’ swansong release. Maybe David foresaw his death and created this album as a farewell to his fans. I realize this probably isn’t the case but the melancholy and misery emitted by the music certainly makes it seem that way. “Woods 4: The Green Album” comes close to boasting a similar effect and would probably take the place directly behind this album in terms of quality, but really, this was THE Woods album. We get some really nice solos as well such as within the track “Death Is Not an Exit” which is followed by a beautiful strings section. My favorite song from this band of all time is also present on this album. “Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)” is a nearly 11-minute masterpiece that boasts many different musical ideas and also has one of the finest guitar solos to be heard here. The strings in this song are wonderful and oh so dreary. In terms of melody, this cut definitely takes the cake.

Aside from the standard guitars there are other instruments that take the music by driving force. Cellos and even an oboe are present in some of these tracks and something that really satisfies me would be the volume of the bass. It is very prominent in the mix but doesn’t overtake the music or overstay its welcome. The ambient intro to “Adora Vivos” is definitely something interesting, although it’s very brief and quickly takes off into the closest thing resembling black metal on this entire album. This is also short lived as the song slows down into the album’s standard doom metal style. But that intro is something neat. It’s very spacy and sounds somewhat sci-fi influenced. The last two songs, after “Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)” which seriously sounds like David’s farewell to everyone, are “Finality” and “Alternate Ending”. It becomes apparent to me that these three songs are something of a trilogy of sorts. I’m sure this wasn’t intentional but for me, it really seems that way. These songs are all about the end of something, be it a relationship or life. “Finality” is the middle of the road towards the end and could sort of be seen as the subject finally accepting his inevitable end. “Alternate Ending” was actually one of the first tracks from this album I heard and remains one of my favorites. It is a simple number boasting some of the most gorgeous piano melodies to be heard here. The chorus is absolutely beautiful and extremely sad but also boasts somewhat of a sigh of relief. Maybe this truly WAS David Gold’s swansong and this was exactly how it was supposed to end.

This album has been routinely praised for the most part and it’s quite easy to see why. There are few other records that really showcase this kind of pure emotion in the modern era save for some of the more depressing black metal acts and other doom metal bands. It exists but it seems like the genres are more oversaturated than anything else. Too bad this had to be the final album but it could not have ended in a more perfect way.