Woods Of Ypres
Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light
13 February 2012
by Tom Dare
By now, you’re probably aware Woods Of Ypres mainman David Gold died on 21 December 2011. What was meant to be the first album he’d have had significant label backing for after plugging away in the Canadian underground for a decade, has instead turned out to be his last. This is obviously a delicate record to analyse, but whatever the background, an album has to stand up on its own merit – the music is either good or it’s not. Only in this particular case, there’s a sizeable caveat.
While they spent the early part of their career as a black metal band, Woods Of Ypres had begun to travel in a more melodic, doomy direction, and it’s this route they’ve headed down this time around. David Gold’s love of Katatonia is rather obvious, but his voice is very distinct, the melodic sense is decidedly not Swedish and on first listen (bear in mind, in my case that was before the accident) appears much less gloomy. It’s dark, and there’s a mournful quality to it, but it’s not musically the kind of despair-inducing misery the description “doomy” usually conjures up. That is until you pay closer attention to the lyrics..
The songs are really bloody good. There’s a real ear for a catchy vocal line evident throughout, it’s backed up with genuine metallic power on the instrumental side, in particular a very articulate drumming performance that drives proceedings. The guitar work is varied and impressive, the atmosphere the clearest sign of their past in the black metal underground, as there’s little real extremity to be heard. The result is a record that quickly burrows into your brain and makes you return for repeat spins – and it’s at this point you notice the words.
Listen to ‘Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)’ by Woods of Ypres:
There’s a tragedy to the songs that you can’t ignore. You’d have to be practically inhuman not to be moved by lines like “I could be thankful to be alive, but I despise this life. In all my years, at best I only learned just to survive” in ‘Travelling Alone‘ or “In the end, was there anyone to share in your joy? I woke up for years without you to realise it was already over for me” in ‘Alternate Ending‘. The delivery, not overwrought but with a matter-of-fact style that’s even more powerful, make this doubly so. At times, it’s actually rather difficult to listen to – ‘Career Suicide (Is Not Real Suicide)‘, ‘Death Is Not An Exit‘ and ‘Adora Vivos‘ especially – in light of what’s happened since. Whatever the circumstances surrounding David Gold’s death turn out to be – a subject it would be beyond crass and tactless to speculate on, for obvious reasons – this is a record clearly penned by a man with some demons.
There’s an aching, longing melancholy at the core of Woods 5 that has nothing to do with circumstance. The power is in the songwriting and the manner of lyrical expression. The sadness over the band’s fallen guitarist and vocalist makes it almost painful to listen to, but when the immediate emotion fades with the passage of time, the deep, personal honesty and musical quality will remain.
Sounds Like: Katatonia with a bit of black metal and a bass-register singer
Standout Tracks: Career Suicide (Is Not Real Suicide), Travelling Alone, Adora Vivos