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Woods of Ypres - Woods 5 - 75%

ThrashManiacAYD, March 10th, 2012

With so much of metal obsessed with the realms of death, mortality and the passing on of beings it could be said the lack of unfortunate coincidences such as the one that has befallen Woods of Ypres do not happen enough. The phrase about living by the sword is what comes to mind. When Canadian's Woods of Ypres recorded their heavily morose "Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light" album, for release in 2011, they must surely have thought the moody-yet-catchy tunes likes "Death Is Not an Exit" and "Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)" would lead their acceleration into the doom/gothic big-league. But with fate intervening and mainman David Gold dying in a car crash on 22nd December 2011, fate appears to have been aware of his lyrics and acted out a cruel twist of fate on a varied and promising band.

"Woods 5" sees WoY at their most accessible musically, with the black metal elements of their earlier work now all-but-gone and replaced by a Type O meets Katatonia vibe. The lyrical mood however is very somber, as if Gold had predicted his demise, with moments of optimism crushed by reflection of a life past that now sadly provides a fitting yet poignant memorial to the man. The soft production job which has smoothed any rough edges there used to be in WoY's music allows for 'Career Suicide" to hone the guile of any mainstream metal song played at dingy club nights while "Death Is Not An Exit" and "Lightning & Snow" show an impassioned side to the plaintive wailing with faster moments of riffing and solid drumming backing setting themselves apart. 11-minute "Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)" is the album's highlight track for painfully obvious reasons given but even to suggest that is to forget the compositional strength of the song's catchy verse-chorus structure in the opening half and the crushingly sad closing sector that brings WoY as close to doom metal as they get. Followed by "Finality", a piano-led gothic track fitted with Gold's deep baritone vocals that would not have been out of place on old Type O Negative records, there is a real sense that as the album's closes out it plummets to it's creator's psychological depths; an unnerving way to close out not only on an album, but a band and a life.

In such tragic circumstances it is easy to be overly sympathetic to the artist and turn a blind-eye to weaknesses, but to do so would be insulting to the honesty that has gone into "Woods 5". The aforementioned production job, while easy on the ear and instrumentally clear, lacks the bite and gritty anger that typifies this kind of music and there are too many moments which plod along in a staid, unadventurous fashion until the kick comes a few minutes later. However what this is a pretty unique sounding record from a band cut down at a horrendously bad time and it remains a fitting epitaph and one David Gold can be very proud of as he rests eternally in it's shadow. RIP.

Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net