|Review: Woods of Ypres - Woods III: Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues|
|Woods III: Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues|
Label: Krankenhaus Records
Year released: 2008
Genre: Black Metal
Review online: February 1, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
for:Woods III: Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues
Rated 3.4/5 (68%) (5 Votes)
I wanted to love this album, I really did. I am a big fan of Woods of Ypres debut long player, Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth, agreeing pretty much 100% with Sargon's review of it, but this sounds almost like a different band. I'm not saying I totally dislike this album, but it is a big disappointment after the promise of Pursuit....
Straight up I will say my biggest gripe with Woods III: Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues is main man David Gold. Oh how I wish he would just shut the fuck up every now and then! Almost every song on this disc is filled from start to finish with lyrics — the man just goes on and on, smothering the instruments with virtually non-stop vocals. His harsh vocal style is an unrelentingly monotonous bark that, while being clear enough to understand what he is going on about, lacks any real dynamic to keep your interest through the numerous lengthy diatribes. Having said that, Mr.Gold has obviously been putting some work into his clean vocals over the last four years, as he can definitely carry a tune better these days, putting his emotionally convincing pipes on fine display for tunes such as "Your Ontario Town is a Burial Ground", "Years of Silence", and "Thrill of the Struggle". The clean vocals cannot save the album though, given the fact I cannot recall one track that has what you might call a musical interlude (apart from the instrumental "Trillium"), just walls of lyrics as far as the eye can see. Lyrically Woods III follows the same path as its predecessor with the same introspective, self-conscious confessionals that feel quite out of place on occasion, suiting the quieter moments much more than when Woods actually rock out.
The songwriting is a real mixed bag; there are a number of what I can only call rock songs through the album — "Your Ontario Town..." and "December in Windsor" being the most blatant examples. "Trillium" is a great instrumental track that also falls into this category (with some brief blasting toward the end), and it becomes clear after a while that Woods of Ypres are much more comfortable with this style than they are with the metal side of things. These tracks progress in a more interesting way, and while they also fall prey to the stream of consciousness ranting of Mr. Gold, they don't suffer quite as badly as the tracks swamped with his harsh vocals. The heavier numbers on offer, such as "Iron Grudge", "To Lock Eyes With a Wild Beast" and "Mistakes Artists Make" tend to just start, then a blur of lyrics, and end — they have no remarkable structure, and sound very much like the band went into the studio and forgot they were supposed to be playing extreme metal and knocked together a couple of tracks to keep the old fans happy. The two places where it all actually comes together and works are the convincingly sorrowful and doomy "Distractions of Living Along", and the album opener "The Northern Cold", which is actually a pretty killer track with its thunderous drums, well placed melodic piano parts, and convincing riffing — it is the track that is truest to the songs on Pursuit and probably dates back to that period. With 15 tracks and a 72 minute run time there is no doubt the Woods III would have benefited greatly by being about 20-25 minutes shorter, as it really starts to run out of steam after about 45 minutes.
The production is poor to say the least, and while it might seem odd to complain about production on a Black Metal album, Woods of Ypres have pretty much all but left Black Metal behind, with the songs here demanding a cleaner, crisper production as would befit their style. This is really largely heavy rock, and as such the muffled guitars and far too loud drums do little more than ruin any potential grandeur that could be inspired by some of the melodies (vocal melodies of course). There are some keyboards present courtesy of Jessica Rose, but except for those sections where they soar above the vocals or provide (quite welcome) piano interludes, they are stuffed into the background under a pillow with the rest of the muffled instrumentation.
Overall Woods of Ypres have delivered a very claustrophobic album that is given very little room to breath due to the absurd amount of vocals. Consequently it features very few memorable riffs or musical passages, relying almost completely on the cleaner vocals to carry the melodies (and make no mistake, some of the vocal melodies are superb), and while David Gold has improved as a vocalist since Pursuit... he is definitely not strong enough to carry the album with his performance. Given how much I enjoyed Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth, I really am quite disappointed with Woods III, as it feels like they wasted some of their potential by releasing this. I am not going to write Woods of Ypres off, I still look forward to what they will do next, and hopefully this will prove to just be a poorly advised diversion along their path to greatness.
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