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Just like you should never judge a book by its cover, neither should you judge an album by its cover, and this album is a particular case in point. By the looks of the cover (and the band’s logo), and not previously knowing anything about the band at all, I had initially assumed Woods of Ypres might be some kind of epic black metal (though they were a black metal band in their early days), but then again the track titles didn’t give that impression. Indeed, on listening to the first track, ‘Shards of Love’, I was quite taken in (maybe it was the oboe, you don’t hear that much oboe in metal!); doomy, well-produced and vocally (being powerfully bass-baritone) lying somewhere between Pete Steele of Type O Negative and Brad Roberts of fellow Canadians Crash Test Dummies. But, after this, well, I had an ongoing problem with the album. Perhaps it’s because I tried listening to it on the way to work (and this is far from motivation Monday morning music) or perhaps it’s because the lyrical matter is particularly dark and depressing, though it’s possible there’s a dark, tongue-in-cheek humour à la Type O Negative to it all - either that or they’ve gone down the route of Stabbing Westward’s ‘Ungod’, where by the end of the album you were sick to the back teeth of hearing “oh my girlfriend’s left me, oh I’m so depressed”. Either way I haven’t got past track four many times before I’ve had to put on something upbeat, happy and musically palette-cleansing. As Woods of Ypres have recently signed to Earache Records, with new album ‘Woods 5: You Were The Light’ due for release in late 2011, ‘Woods 4…’ is actually a re-release of an album originally released in 2009 on Practical Arts Records. The vocal production is extremely slick; seemingly highly-processed in places (without seeming out of place), with the vocal style of frontman David Gold moving seamlessly between the clean-sung lush deep tones and grittier growls, and the musical production, whilst harking back to early ‘90s doom in places, is especially fitting and adequate throughout, with very solid and well-executed guitars and drumming. Flitting from slow, chugging classic doom (‘Everything I Touch Turns to Gold…Then to Coal’), to vocal lines that could have been plucked straight from a Type O song (‘By The Time You Read This…’), to almost groovy elements (‘…And I Am Pining For You’), to exquisite acoustic and vocal interludes (‘You Are Here With Me…’), to much heavier elements later on the album, it’s pleasing to find that it’s not an album ridden with a monotonous style, as are some doom albums, but being consistently down-tuned and predominately minor in key, it’s not exactly the easiest of rides if you’re not in the right mood for it. It’s one long ride of an album, but on getting past those first four tracks, it’s actually proved to be a surprisingly good and varied album and one that, to be honest, is incredibly well-written and way more enjoyable than initially anticipated (if you don’t get too bogged down by the lyrical matter). So, after nearly 80 minutes of gloriously lush vocals and music (and more gorgeous oboe), it’s got me sold. I admit defeat. It’s a fantastic chunky wedge of doom and if this is your bag, you won’t go far wrong in getting hold of a copy. Damn, I hate being proved wrong…
Earache Records
Review by Hannah Sylvester
14th March 2011
1) Shards Of Love; 2) Everything I Touch Turns To Gold (Then To Coal); 3) By The Time You Read This (I Will Already Be Dead); 4) I Was Buried In Mount Pleasant Cemetery; 5) Dirty Window Of Opportunity: "Can You Get Here In 10 Days?"; 6) ...And I Am Pining (For You); 7) Wet Leather; 8) Suicide Cargoload (Drag That Weight); 9) Halves And Quarters; 10) You Are Here With Me (In This Sequence Of Dreams); 11) Retrosleep In The Morning Calm; 12) Don't Open The Wounds / Skywide Armspread; 13) Natural Technologies; 14) Mirror Reflection & The Hammer Reinvention; 15) To Long Life In The "Limbo Union"; 16) Move On!
"...nearly 80 minutes of gloriously lush vocals and music..."