Black metal is having a fantastic two years. Besides the sheer volume of great releases, the best tell-tale of this prolific outburst is the sheer variety of sub-genres actively contributing to the main genre. This year alone, we’ve seen more “straight-forward” contributions (like Orm‘s excellent, self titled release), atmospheric releases (like Somnium Nox‘s excellent Terra Inanis), and more avant-garde experimentation (like Dodecahedron‘s death metal tinged kwintessens or netra‘s weird Ingrats). To this latter category, of black metal blended with unusual influences, we can now add White Ward‘s Futility Report, a third release from a relatively unknown band which should, hopefully, garner them more attention.
At Futility Report‘s core, like a battery ever in-flux, rests a contrast not too unlikely that which makes netra move and coil. However, White Ward take a more polished approach to both ends of their equation, producing black metal that is larger and catchier than the more abrasive Ingrats. On one hand, as evinced during opening track “Deviant Shapes”, White Ward’ black metal relies on traditional elements from the atmospheric black metal sphere: the vocals are high pitched but not too abrasive, perhaps reminding one of Oak Pantheon. The riffs are accompanied by playing of string melody for grandeur and, at their base, rely on groove for their accessibility rather than a searing abrasiveness.
On the other, saxophone, noir ambience (again recalling netra), and an all together more jazzy approach inhibit the other side of the coin. These elements are used to enhance and “color in between” the black metal elements, making Futility Report a richer and more expressive album. However, White Ward also know how to make both aspects of their sound live together, like during the excellent “Stillborn Knowledge”, where the saxophone plays over tremolo picked guitar and blast beats, beautifully ushering in the chorus of the track. This chorus then breaks apart into an electronically fused bridge, clean guitars and vibrant base cascading over subdued drums before the saxophone returns again. The track also contains an insanely groovy riff near its end, marking one of the best moments on the album as the guitars perfectly provide a catharsis for all that came beforehand.
This is the basic beat of the album and in that fact also lies its main weakness. If you’re at all aware of the trends within avant-garde black metal, the blow-by-blow of this album will feel very familiar to you. The similarities between this album and Aenaon‘s Hypnosophy or Balance Interruption‘s Door 218 are immediately clear and prevalent. Which is to say, Futility Report is very much a child of the ongoing resurgence of black metal in general and avant-garde black metal specifically. Which isn’t that much of a sin, especially considering the fact that they make some interesting additions and contributions to the genre and its ideas. However, it would have been nice to hear just a little bit more deviation in the album’s structure and flow.
Bottom line, if you’re a fan of black metal (and avant-garde in general), you’ll find more than enough to enjoy on Futility Report in order to give it a chance. The album sets out to do something very particular and accomplishes that with professionalism and dedication which speaks to the fact that the band aren’t newcomers. Hopefully, this cohesive and powerful release will garner them more space in the realms of avant-garde since, even if slightly lacking in true experimentation, Futility Report makes for enjoyable, moving, and effective avant-garde black metal.
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Futility Report sees release on the 12th of May via Debemur Morti Productions. Head on to the band’s Bandcamp to purchase it.