A Hazy Shade Of Summer ...
Not being familiar with my own countries underground metal scene (coming late into the metal arena) I was unaware of the huge impact that Woods Of Ypres was having on the Canadian black metal scene. I didn't know there was a Canadian black metal scene. I actually saw their full length album first with the caption "Black Metal from Windsor" and just had to check it out and was blown away by the quality of not just the production, but the songwriting/music altogether. This is some incredible music.
Starting with the bands debut EP "Against The Seasons: Cold Winter Songs From The Dead Winter Heat" we have a solid melodic black metal album rooted in melancholic bleakness. This album is more traditionally black metal and more aggressive then their follow up, but there are hints at uniqueness and originality that would grow on the later release. The album opener "Intro (The Shades Of Optimism)" is a galloping black metal tune that is brutal and fast. It hints at Twin Obscenity stylings as does "The Sea Of Immeasurable Loss". The riffwork here is more melodic and some clean vocals bring warmth to this sweltering uncomfortable sadness.
"Crossing The 45th Parallel" is brutally fast with a chunky melodic middle bridge. This track reflect the kind of style that would become more prominent on their sophomore release. The album closer "Awaiting The Inevitable" is a pummelling mid-paced black metal tune steeped in sorrow.
"A Meeting Place And Time" is most like where the band would grow and is darkly sweet and melodically sorrowful. A real beautiful piece, however, I pick "The Sea Of Immeasurable Loss" as my favourite for its blend of hopeful melancholy.
On their second release "Pursuit Of The Sun & Allure Of The Earth" the music takes on a grander theme and more styles to create a unique and gloomy sound. The emphasis here is not in being brutal and dark, but to tap into emotions that are brutal and dark. We have more clean vocals in part to a changing line-up where the sole remaining member David Gold who took over vocals (clean/black) as well as guitars and studio drums. The music is more depressing and gloomy with some nice acoustic passages and a larger doom sound. I wouldn't call this folk metal or progressive metal and I wouldn't call black metal either, but the mix creates such a bleak environment and inherent sadness that even doomer's and gother's would be envious..
The opening song "Intro: The Looming Of Dust In The Dark (And Illumination)" sets the mood with an upliftingly depressing melodic ballad like tune with dark undertones, but after the opening acoustic intro of the second track"The Will To Give" David Gold belts out ~The disappointment of what never came to be~ and blasts into a blistering and melodic bleak black metal tune. It's dark and passionate and emotionally crushing. "Dragged Across A Forest Floor" is just as brutal, but paints such a miserable feeling of pained uncomfortableness. This song also features a heartwrenching bridge coated in sorrow filled melody (And also my favourite song).
The third song "The Sun Was In My Eyes pt.1" is dark heavy and brutally fast and reaches death metal intensity , whereas "The Sun Was In My Eyes part Doom" is (as the title states) doom laden with an oppressing feeling of gloom before taking us out with some blistering black metal. "Allure Of The Earth" and "Shedding The Deadwood" are also heavily influenced doom tracks with acoustic passages of overwhelming sadness. The album closer "Outro: The End Of August" is Cathedral style doom mixed with airy vocal lines both male and female creating a pretty cool sound. Haunting.
There is also an almost poppy song here called "Summer's Envy" which I think is the cause of most reviewers negativity. It does have a hooky riff and sing along chorus, but the song is still weighted heavily in a depressing gloom that just won't shake off. It is like a glimmer of hope that one might catch in amongst a world gone mad, but wisps away before your outlook is changed and potentially leaving you worse for ever seeing it. I find the albums integrity does not suffer from this track.
"Pursuit Of The Sun & Allure Of The Earth" is a solid album of what can only be called melancholic metal. It is depressingly gloomy and painfully brutal. It is an album to stew over on a beautiful summer day.
Up next, I'll be starting a series of posts (3) on one of the most original metal bands out there now. Virgin Black are carving a niche for orchestral gothic/doom metal with sickeningly heart wrenching vocals and grandiose compositions. Truly a unique and very talented band.