Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light

Woods of Ypres

Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light

01. Career Suicide (Is Not Real Suicide)
02. Traveling Alone
03. Alternate Ending
04. Lightening & Snow
05. Finality
06. Death Is Not An Exit
07. Adora Vivos
08. Silver
09. Modern Life Architecture
10. Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye) (pt 1)
11. Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye) (pt 2)

[02/21/12]
[Earache Records]

Groundhog Day was last week, and in my neck of the woods the little bugger apparently saw his shadow, which either means I’m going to be stuck in a hell world where nothing but Bill Murray is playing on the TV, or we’ll have six more weeks of winter. I don’t really mind either of those things, though because Billy Murray is hilarious, and winter almost always brings forth excellent metal albums, usually of the slow and melancholic nature. The aptly titled Woods 5, coming from the short lived Canadian doom band, Woods of Ypres, is just that sort of album. It relies heavily on powerful guitar leads, pain-filled vocals and songs focused around the existential topics that make up our life; death, the afterlife, god, et cetera, et cetera. In this genre it’s something you’ll hear a thousand million times, but some bands know how to pull it off, and some bands don’t. Woods of Ypres are one of the lucky groups who definitely know how to pull it off, and with Woods 5 they have crafted an excellent swansong for the dearly departed singer/songwriter/guitarist David Gold who passed away late last year, shortly after finishing the recording of this album.

I’ve always enjoyed Woods of Ypres. To me they were one of the few bands who really understood how to be musicians. Always trying something new with their art, but keeping a lingering trail to their past work, never completely eschewing what they originally were, but offering something new and profound with each release. It’s something that says to the fans, “Hey we’re still US, but we want you to enjoy something new”, and I appreciated that. And so it is with Woods 5, a record that undoubtedly sounds like a Woods of Ypres album, but moves into territory you probably wouldn’t expect. There are uplifting guitar melodies that soar through certain tracks, and the almost pop-ey vocals and subject matter on the opening track ‘Career Suicide (Is Not Real Suicide)’ is something that came as a bit of a surprise. A good surprise, but a surprise none the less.

Over the years Woods seemed to have gotten doomier, and doomier — I’m allowed to make up words— as opposed to the more black metal-esque sound they started out with, but with this release a lot of the staples of doom albums are thrown out. The album sort of sounds like what one could imagine Agalloch sounding like if they were to record a melo-death metal album. With Woods 5 there are no overly lengthy tracks with long sections of instrumentation, or pointless bits of drone, but the music is still as thick as ever and each track feels focused and cohesive rather than a meandering drift through the unknown whims of a strung out guitar player.

Gold’s vocals permeate every layer of this release, and even though he’s gone almost entirely clean, this isn’t a bad thing. A lot of people have taken notice of the stylistic change in his singing, and while this is pure speculation, it sounds like the man was paying special homage to another front-man who passed away not too long ago, Peter Steele. The harsh vocals are sparse, but their sparsity makes them that much more special. It’s startling when you hear the dark growls and screeches coming from this man, and it adds more depth to a record that already feels like an M.C. Escher lithograph. It’s dark, welcoming, and wildly deep.

I touched on how there are uplifting and pop oriented sounds here, but as a whole this is one bleak and depressing album. Every song deals with death in some form or another. I can’t really say why Gold was so fixated on it, any attempt would just be complete and wild speculation on my part, but with all the talk of death it’s hard to ignore the lingering presence of Gold’s untimely passing. As morbid as this may sound, in the end Gold’s death might have been beneficial to the air of Woods 5. It’s clear he wanted to create a record that would bring to mind a certain mood and with his passing, that feeling of dread and morose sadness is made right from the get go. Though, sometimes it’s hard to look at Gold’s death as a sad event, especially when listening to songs like ‘Adora Vivos’ where Gold bellows out “A moment of silence (for the dead), but not one moment more/The dead are to be forgotten, we are here to be adored”. With lyrics like these, it’s hard to be focused on the down-side of Gold’s passing, and instead it makes one recall all the good that came from his time with us.

This album has a lot to offer any listener, even if they’re not a fan of the band or the genre it dwells within. There’s a myriad of different sounds being thrown around, and each one contributes beautifully to the overall package. The atmosphere here is dark, and gloomy, but if you give it a listen you’ll probably be surprised by how uplifted you actually end up feeling. Like I said above, Woods 5 serves as a perfect swansong for the late David Gold, a man who poured his heart and soul into this record. While his passing has had an impact on how I view this record, I would have loved and praised it either way. Woods 5 is the crowning achievement in this band’s career, and it’s nearly flawless. However, the unfortunate reality is that the man responsible for this album won’t be able to see its success, and the band won’t be able to expand upon it.

Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light gets…

5/5

 

– EC

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