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Love the living while they're still alive. - 100%

CleansingPestilence, May 8th, 2012

Woods of Ypres have always been a band that are very special to me. Aside from seamlessly and effectively combining different genres of metal and rock, front man David Gold was always able to craft such honest, passionate lyrics. It may seem like an incredible cliche, but it felt at times where David was singing my thoughts; what I was feeling at the time. Few bands have ever been able to touch my heart in that way. When David Gold passed away on December 23, I was at a loss for words. For a man I only met briefly last year, I was devastated. I had long felt a strong connection, not so much to the man himself, but his art. And for a band whose lyrics had often dealt with death and coping with devastating losses, it made this album incredibly difficult to listen to for the first little while. But after finally bringing myself to sit down and immerse myself in the record, I was glad I did. This is without a single doubt Woods of Ypres' finest release, and an emotionally crushing one at that.

Stylistically, this album is its own character. There are elements of many different styles of music, metal and otherwise, though the prevailing sound is bleak, melodic doom metal. "Travelling Alone", "Modern Life Architecture" and especially "Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)" are brilliant examples of slow, haunting, crushing melodic doom metal. I am reminded of Katanonia and Type O Negative (two bands which David Gold was apparently a huge fan of). Other times, the record is a straightforward, driving rock record. "Career Suicide (Is Not Real Suicide)" and "Death Is Not an Exit" are good examples of David's ability to write simple, hooky riffs with a catchy, memorable, almost pop-ish chorus. There is even some piano balladry and thrown in there. Surprisingly, however, "Finality" and "Alternate Ending" don't sound out of place at all on this album. In fact, they rather compliment the overall mood. There is also some cello and oboe used in a few tracks, really adding to the emotional weight of the songs. The black metal of the past releases is largely absent on this record; "Lightning and Snow" being the only track that is reminiscent of the tremolo picked riffing and blast beats of 2002's "Against the Seasons" EP. That being said, it should not be assumed that the change in the band's sound means that the music is any less heavy. Some of Woods' most crushing material is to be heard on this disc. "Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)" may very well be the heaviest song Woods has ever recorded (the only other I can recall is "Suicide Cargoload" from "Woods IV: The Green Album"). In short, this material is the finest, most diverse and indeed, heaviest that has ever been released under the Woods of Ypres moniker.

The lyrics, which have followed a rather consistent theme throughout the duration of the band, are bleak, depressing, melancholic, and heartbreaking. The songs deal with loneliness, lost love, and indeed, David's own demise. Given the events that occurred before the release of the album, the subject matter is doubly heavy and upsetting. Reading the lyrics, one gets a sense of the struggles that David endured in his lifetime. The words almost feel like a foreshadowing of David's death; a suicide note of sorts. Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the album, there are inspirational lyrics to be heard. On "Adora Vivos", David sings "Love the living while they're still alive", telling us that it's important to not take people for granted while they are around; and "Don't wait till death to sing their praise". On "Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)", he sings "To mourn the end is to say goodbye, not to yearn for that which we will never have again", a powerful statement which one can't help but view as a message to his family and friends who are grieving for him.

Overall, this record is perfection. Emotionally draining, sonically crushing perfection. And I am not saying that simply out of some need to worship someone who has passed. I truly believe that even if David were still with us, this record would be a defining moment in his career. It is upsetting to know that he will never hear the positive feedback and critical acclaim that this album has been garnering. RIP David Gold.