Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Woods of Ypres - "Woods IV: The Green Album" Review!

FINALLY, it's time to review the brand new album from local doom metal band Woods of Ypres! I'm sorry for the delay, this Kiss battle stuff is very time consuming, and having university doesn't help matters! So here's what you need to know about "Woods IV: The Green Album" before I review the tracks! (Updated on September 28th, 2012)

Originally released on November 13th, 2009 through Practical Art Records, this is the fourth album from Woods of Ypres, not counting their best-of CD or the vinyl singles. Only the late David Gold returns from "Woods III" on vocals & guitar, with the band's then-lineup featuring Gates of Winter lead guitarist Bryan Belleau, along with Philadelphia-based musicians Shane & Evan Madden (Woods of Ypres' final live bassist & drummer, respectively) to round out "the Woods 4". As well, members of the Ottawa neofolk classical band Musk Ox supplied guest guitar, cello, and oboe recordings for the 10th track. Produced by David Gold & Miguel Gauthier, the album was recorded at Stereo Soul Studios in the summer of 2009, and was later mastered by Andy Krehm at Silverbirch Studios in Toronto. Reissued through Earache Records in March 2011, you can buy "W4" online at this location on CD and vinyl and on iTunes by clicking here. Remember that limited first run copies of "The Green Album" came with a bonus disc, "Slaughter of the Seoul" by South Korean death metal band Necramyth, who featured David Gold on drums, but that edition of "W4" is now out of print. Still, it's a very solid album and well worth tracking down a special edition copy for!

"Woods IV: The Green Album" features 16 songs totaling almost 80 minutes, let's begin the review with the first song! (Note: The track listing below uses the names present on the Earache reissue, which David revealed in 2010 after the initial independent release.)

The album kicks off with "Shards of Love (Hurt Forever)", which begins with a very orchestral slow opening, likely to set the mood, and it works pretty well! When the singing begins, the pace begins slowly picking up, but never losing the atmosphere of the song, which is seemingly about being dumped by a lover. It builds to a heavier doomy conclusion that shows glimpses of the heaviness we'll get later on the album, plus a great sing-along part near the end, and despite being only 5 minutes long, it has a very epic feel. A good doom metal opener for the album, though the best is yet to come! Next is "Everything I Touch Turns To Gold (Then To Coal)", which takes the band back into heavier territory. Despite the band's evolution from black to doom metal, David still uses the black metal vocals sometimes, this song has some of that, though it's equal clean singing as well! The pace is slow, but heavy, and it chugs along very nicely! Not an upbeat song at all, but it's not supposed to be, and doom metal lovers will appreciate it! The guitars are very effective here, almost at the detriment of the other instruments. Another good song, could have been a touch stronger lyrically though.

The third song is "By The Time You Read This (I Will Already Be Dead)", another strong effort! Playing like a suicide note, it seems to be threading a concept from the last couple songs of a depressed man contemplating suicide over being dumped, which is a good concept, and it doesn't play like some emo tripe at all! One thing that stands out to me is the guitar work, they promised that this would be the first Woods album with solos, and while it's not quite there yet, Bryan has some great playing here, especially near the end of the song! David sings with some real passion, his clean singing has evolved miles since his singing debut on "Woods II", and the bass work by Shane Madden is great too! Best track so far!

Fourth is another epic song, "I Was Buried In Mount Pleasant Cemetery", a song with a lot of dark imagery about being buried at that cemetery, which is located in Toronto. The song opens with David on piano, and builds into a slow mounful doom track, heavy, but slow enough to set a depressing mood (in a good way!) Eventually, the song morphs into more ballad-like territory with some great use of symphonics (an element I've always loved in metal music!) Woods of Ypres do these long orchestral epics really well, I want to hear more of them! The song closes with a heavier faster closer that doesn't ring as much like a standard "doom metal" song, even breaking out black metal vocals again! Amazing track with a little bit of everything, one of the album's standout songs!

Track five is "Into Exile: 'Can You Get Here in 10 Days?'" (Songs with subtitles are common on the disc.) This song is a touch more melodic than the last few, but still far entrenched in a doom sound. The progression of David's voice is really evident here with the singing he pulls off! There's an interesting spoken word passage too that plays like advice to let go of your problems and see where it leads. The song ends with the first ever proper guitar solo on a Woods of Ypres track! Nice work by Bryan on the solo, I just wish the volume was higher! Good song, it got better as it went on, the first part was alright too!

This is followed by the album's longest track, "Pining (For You)", clocking in at 8 minutes & 15 seconds! Despite the length, this doesn't have the epic feel of older songs. The lyrical themes involve love and desire, but the song sure doesn't sound like that. It's typical Woods, which is good, but at such a length, the song starts to drag a bit around the middle. Luckily, Bryan kicks in with another solo, always a welcome sound! The ending is awesome and the heaviest part of the song, great to headbang to! But as a whole, this song could be benefited greatly by trimming it to make it shorter and remove some dead space. Nice song even still! Then, we have "Wet Leather", which has a very noticeable Type O Negative-vibe to it. I love Type O Negative, so that's all right in my book! Very doomy, but a bit sped up into a nice little song that is just great to sing along with! "Life is just pain and piss, it's nothing that I will miss." Gotta love those nice uplifting lyrics! Yet another song with Bryan soloing too, it's his best one so far, but I wish they mixed his solos higher! Another great song, even though it screams "Type O" more than "Woods".

"Suicide Cargoload (Drag that Weight!)" is the eighth track, and here's something I wasn't expecting from a Woods of Ypres track: A borderline death metal song! Still had the doom quality to it, but David brings out a death metal growl that fits the song pretty well, though his clean singing populates the choruses! This song's got a real nice groove, probably the best song overall to headbang to on the record! It goes by too quickly though, I like the sound of the track! Next up is "Halves & Quarters", which clocks in at under two & a half minutes! The death metal portion of the album continues in zest here, though the instrumentation doesn't fit the growling vocals, sounding slightly more commercial. Still good, just different! Not a lot to comment on, it's a short and to the point song that gets the job done!

...and the songs keep shrinking on track 10, "You Are Here With Me (In This Sequence of Dreams)", featuring guest performer Musk Ox, an experimental guitarist from Ottawa! I remember David Gold referring to this song as a "metal lullaby", and that's perfectly accurate! At just 101 seconds, it's the album's shortest song, and it really could work as a lullaby, it has that intimate sleepy quality! It accomplishes what it should, and David sings well on it, but you know me, I prefer heavy songs to softer material. Luckily, the heaviness returns on the next song, "Retrosleep in the Morning Calm", which returns the band to their common slow doom sound that they've evolved into! Not a lot of singing though, the middle of the album hasn't had too much in varying lyrics, but David's singing is really good here, staying in a higher key and trying a more melodic style than normal. Music's as good as ever, the bass really pounds here, and Evan Madden's drumming really shines and you can hear it really well! Good song, but it zoomed by too quickly!

"Don't Open The Wounds (Skywide Armspread)" follows as the twelfth track, and the songs are getting longer and doomier once again! Vocals are very deep here, excluding the choruses, and the song has a catchy doom riff. Guitar is great on this song, Bryan shines once again, I've never heard guitar playing this varied on a Woods album! This song got stuck in my head, the chorus is very easy to sing along with! Best drumming so far on the album is on this song too, near the end, Evan get a bit of solo time and fires off some rapid fire drumming that sounds awesome! Another of my favourites on the album, it's a great song! Some really fast playing begins track 13, "Natural Technologies", which comes the closest to replicating older Woods songs, mostly thanks to the constant use of black metal style singing! Drumming and guitar work are again at fine form, I love hearing solos on Woods songs finally, and Evan's bashing the skins very skillfully here! Another great song, especially for the glimpses of past Woods sounds it has!

Next is "Mirror Reflection (And The Hammer Re-Invention)", the last of the more lengthy songs on the album, and it's very solid too! The first half sounds like a combo of the songs on Woods III & IV, with black metal-ish verses and doom metal choruses, it's a nice match! There's a clear divide about halfway through the song, and the second half take a bit more of a faster pace, cranking the heaviness up just a bit to create a relentless attack of heaviness! The clean singing seems slightly out of place on the second half though, drains some of the momentum. Other than that, a great song! One of the album's very best! The second to last song is "Our Union (in Limbo)", which is slower paced and doesn't really have a "kick" to it until past the half way point (including a black metal-ish ending), but I dunno, something about this song really attracted my interest. I found myself singing along with it and really getting into it! It's not an "epic" style song, but it's worth checking out!

The album's final track is "Move On! (The Woman Will Always Leave The Man)", which is a very good closer, embodying the doom qualities that Woods have been playing so well on this album! A short and to the point closer, I love how they ended with some aggression and with harsh vocals, going out strong rather than fading with little impact. Not a lot new to speak of, just a solid closer that would fit well as their finale for concerts!

And so ends "Woods IV: The Green Album", a completely satisfying record from Woods of Ypres! While some may not like the band's move from black metal to doom metal, really, the seeds for that have been planted for a while, and it's not a sellout move, it's not like they're playing radio rock or emo! This album is packed with quality, you'll get more for your $15 than most bands offer, because it's packed almost to the brim with exciting, heavy, and sometimes epic songs! The guitar is the most improved aspect from "Woods III", Bryan Belleau was always a great guitarist, and here, he injects a new flavour into Woods of Ypres with the addition of guitar solos, and some very nice melodies and riffing! Best guitar ever on a Woods album! The Madden brothers also fit extremely well in the band, playing their instruments to their fullest potential! Hopefully David keeps all three around!

However, there are flaws. Bryan's guitar always seemed a bit low in the mix, certain songs did drag or go on too long, and really, the lyrical content can get quite depressing. To listen to this album straight through, you may have to be in the right mindset or mood, cause some of the songs are quite dark and deal with some challenging issues. But don't confuse this with some emo record, the lyrics and songs match up really well, particularly on the more epic orchestral songs, which I want to hear more of on a Woods record! Sure, I miss the black metal days, but this is a natural progression that accomplishes everything David set out to do! It's heavy, it's well played, and another success from Woods of Ypres!

(Note: If you have Windows Media Player, listen to the album with the crazy colour visualizations, and pick "Green is not your enemy" from the Battery menu when you pick visualizations, it fits the album perfectly!)

So FINALLY, I've got the "Woods IV" review done! Again, sorry for the delay! So, what's my review next month going to be? Well, we're gonna head back to Sault Michigan, for my next review, as it will be of the debut album from Clownsack, entitled "Rotten Candy"! Now I am aware that Detroit are releasing their new album, "Brace For Impact", at the end of the month, but I'm trying to have a quota of 3 Sault Michigan albums for every 7 Sault Ontario albums (just to keep things fair between the twin Saults), so "Brace For Impact's" review will be in early February, I promise! I've also gotta slot in the new Sykotyk Rampage album whenever that's officially released too, I'll keep you guys posted! So expect a review of "Rotten Candy" between January 1st and 9th, it'll be something else!

That's all for now, stay tuned tomorrow for my full review of the Kiss Battle of the Bands Finals! Remember, Blues Harvest, Flat Stanley, Garden of Bedlam, Gsis Murphy, Lion Ride, Nebraska Arms, Nixxon Dixxon, Sense of Truth, Stiffler's Mom, and Wishbone will compete at 9:00 PM tonight to decide what band will be recommended to open for Kiss at The Essar Center on December 15th! $4, 19+, hope to see all you guys there, it'll be a good show! Thanks everyone for your continued readership and support, I really appreciate it!

1 comment:

Phil said...

WOODS OF YPRES IS SO AWESOME! I love all the songs so much, each one for me gives a different feeling, its great.